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Dozens killed as South Sudan army and rebels clash again

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Dozens killed as South Sudan army and rebels clash again

2011-03-13 02:26:51 GMT+7 (ICT)

JUBA, SOUTHERN SUDAN (BNO NEWS) -- Heavy fighting erupted in the early hours of Saturday in the capital of South Sudan's Upper Nile state between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the forces loyal to renegade General George Athor Deng.

Eyewitnesses inside Malakal town told Sudan Tribune the fighting broke out at 3:00am and continued until 8:00am. Lam Both, the Upper Nile state information minister confirmed the clashes, but couldn't confirm the actual numbers of casualties.

"As we speak now, fighting is still going on in some parts of Malakal. But until an assessment is done, it's difficult to know how many people were killed or injured from both sides," Lam said by phone from Malakal.

In a separate interview with Sudan Tribune, Phillip Panyang Aguer, the SPLA spokesman also confirmed the early morning incident, but insisted that the army managed to repel the militias out of the Upper Nile state capital.

Aguer later told Xinhua news agency that at least 30 people were killed in the clashes.

"The attacking group infiltrated into Malakal city in civil costumes before the attack. The SPLA has managed to pursue the group, killing 30 of them and arresting one," he added, as cited by Xinhua.

Renegade leader Athor, a former Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) member, took up arms last year, alleging fraud in state elections after losing the gubernatorial race, but signed a ceasefire in February. Armed elements loyal to him have clashed several times with forces belonging to the SPLA since he rebelled, resulting in a number of deaths on both sides.

Last year, a referendum was held and resulted in Southern Sudan becoming the world's newest nation. The referendum was the culminating point of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), ending two decades of civil war between the North and the South that killed some 2 million people and drove an estimated 4.5 million others from their homes. Under the CPA, the SPLA became the official army of South Sudan and the SPLM the ruling party.

The recent wave of fighting in Malakal and other areas casts doubt over the stability of South Sudan which will officially become independent in July.

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-- © BNO News All rights reserved 2011-03-13

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