April 23, 2015
(JUBA) – Heavy gun battles resumed on Thursday in Malakal, the capital of South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, despite the deployment of more government troops.
The resumption of fighting forced the state government to relocate, several officials, who included the deputy governor, told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
The fighting which started Tuesday night and resumed on Wednesday involved the state governor’s guards against forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Johnson Olony, who became of part regular forces after integration into the army in 2013.
Olony was a militia commander between 2010 and 2012, when he fought under the banner of South Sudan Democratic Movement led by late George Athor Deng, who rebelled in protest of the result of 2010 elections in which he contested as an independent candidate for Jonglei state. He later decided with several other militia groups to abandon rebellion in response to the 2012 presidential amnesty.
Acting state information minister Gatluak Liphoth told Sudan Tribune on Thursday shelling had resumed between the fighters allied to governor’s Kun guards allegedly backed by armed Dinka youth on one side and those under the command of Olony supported by armed youth from his ethnic Shilluk on the other, forcing many civilians to seek sanctuary in the united nations camp.
“Fighting is continuing as I am talking to you. It is ongoing. The forces of Johnson Olony are shelling the town from the other side of the river. He has stationed his forces on the other side of west bank. He is shelling the residence of the governor, the market, the whole town,” the minister said by phone from Malakal.
“Everything else is being brought down. He is destroying Malakal for no reason and this is why people are asking us whether Johnson is still part of the government,” he added.
He said Olony’s forces had targeted the official residences of the governor, the state secretariat, sector commander and police commissioner, as well as military barracks and government institutions.
According to Gatluak, the deputy governor, ministers and other officials all fled Malakal.
UN CONDEMNS CLASHES
Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan said it deeply regrets the continuation of hostilities in Malakal, which resulted in to the displacement of civilians.
The mission said it received more internally displaced persons at its protection-of-civilians sites in the UN compound outside Malakal today. At the same time, the Mission is adhering to its policy of providing shelter to combatants who surrender their weapons and remove their military uniforms prior to entering one of its protection sites.
“A number of stray bullets hit an UNMISS vehicle and sanitation facilities used by its military peacekeepers earlier today [Thursday]”, UNMISS said in a statement.
“Some mortar rounds also landed 400 meters outside the perimeter of its compound, and shelling took place near the installation of the Mission’s Bangladeshi riverine unit”.
The mission, however, called on the belligerent forces to ensure the safety of all UN personnel and the inviolability of UN physical assets. It further called on the commanders of these forces to exercise restraint and immediately cease all hostilities.
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