Rebels clash with south Sudan troops: Army

A rebel militia group launched a pre-dawn attack on the capital of south Sudan`s oil-rich Upper Nile state.

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2011, 21:07 PM IST

Khartoum: A rebel militia group launched
a pre-dawn attack on the capital of south Sudan`s oil-rich
Upper Nile state on Saturday before southern troops drove them back,
the southern army`s spokesman said.

"There was an attack on Malakal at 4:00 am (local
time). A small group of militia went into the centre of the
town and started shooting," Philip Aguer said to anews agency.

"The SPLA pushed them out, forcing them behind the
airport. We do not yet have casualty figures," said Aguer,
spokesman for the Sudan People`s Liberation Army.

"It is Ulony`s group," Aguer added, referring to the
rebel commander whose men fought with the SPLA in Owach, west
of Malakal, this week.

More than 70 people were killed in those clashes, the
southern army spokesman said at the time, while accusing Ulony
of being in the service of the Khartoum government.

South Sudan, which is due to gain international
recognition in July after January`s referendum on independence
from the north, has witnessed a wave of deadly clashes with
rebel groups in recent weeks.

Violence broke out in Malakal in early February, when
loyalists of Gabriel Tang, who commanded a pro-Khartoum
militia during the 1983-2005 civil war between the north and
south, refused to surrender their heavy weapons.

At least 20 people were killed in the fighting that
ensued.

Earlier this week, two days of fighting in neighbouring
Jonglei state between the SPLA and renegade southern general
George Athor also left more than 20 people dead.

Aguer said today that the SPLA had dislodged Athor from
his bases in northern Jonglei and that the situation there was
now calm.

During the devastating 1983-2005 civil war between
north and south, Khartoum armed militias among southern ethnic
groups opposed to the SPLA, which has repeatedly accused the
northern authorities of maintaining the policy in a bid to
destabilise the region.

Khartoum has in turn accused the southern authorities
of backing rebel groups in the western region of Darfur,
something they deny.

Analysts have said maintaining security in the southern
nation-in-waiting and disarming its civilian population will
be major challenges for the authorities.

PTI