(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
NAIROBI - At least 14 people were killed in the South Sudanese town of Raga when fighting erupted between government forces and the main rebel group, a rebel spokesman said on Saturday, within a week of violence in neighboring Wau state that killed 16.
The rebels, the main force fighting the government in the famine-hit nation's civil war, had briefly occupied the northwestern town, near the border with Sudan and Central African Republic, before withdrawing to nearby bases to prepare for a counter-attack.
"For the last two days the government bombed our areas around Raga and yesterday our forces decided to go and raid Raga," opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel Lam said by phone.
“Around 14 people were counted killed but many are injured ... we had one soldier killed with some injuries," he told Reuters.
The government's military spokesman, Santo Domic Chol, said “I’m right now in Raga and will talk to you later."
Oil-rich South Sudan has been riven by violence since 2013, when President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, fired his Nuer deputy Riek Machar. The political showdown quickly split along ethnic lines and has drawn many tribes into a complex patchwork of conflict.
On Monday, at least 16 people were killed in Wau, 200 miles (300 km) from Raga, when government soldiers sealed off roads and allied militias went door-to-door hunting members of ethnic minorities.
The United Nations said 13,500 people had since fled to a UN-protected camp in Wau and 3,000 to other locations.
The UN, which has a large peacekeeping force in the East African nation, confirmed the latest outbreak of violence.
"Fresh fighting has broken out between government SPLA and opposition forces in a number of locations including Raga in the west of South Sudan, Waat in Jonglei to the east and in the area of Wunkur and Tonga in the northern Upper Nile region," it said in a statement.
In February, the UN declared parts of South Sudan were suffering from famine, the world's first famine for six years.