South Sudan army in new push against rebel forces
JUBA - Agence France-PresseSouth Sudan’s army said today it was poised for a major offensive against rebel forces, as the country slid towards civil war despite international peace efforts.
Expectations of a major upsurge in fighting came as the United Nations warned that the situation in the world’s youngest nation was fast unraveling, with hundreds of thousands of civilians now at risk.
Fighting has gripped South Sudan for more than a week, after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar, who was fired from the government in July, of attempting a coup.
Machar denied the claim and accused Kiir of carrying out a vicious purge of his rivals. Vowing to oust Kiir, his forces have since seized the town of Bor, capital of the powder keg eastern Jonglei state and located just 200 kilometers north of Juba, as well as the town of Bentiu, capital of crucial oil-producing Unity state.
South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer said the government was on the offensive.
“Our soldiers will regain control of Bor town from the forces of the rebellion. The forces of Machar are still in control of the town, but we readying to take back control,” he said.
Obama raises tone
The comments came despite days of shuttle diplomacy by African nations and calls from the United States, Britain and the United Nations for the fighting to stop. U.S. President Barack Obama firmly vowed to take more action in South Sudan if needed.
He revealed that U.S. troops, attacked by unidentified gunmen on Dec. 21 as they approached the rebel-held city of Bor, were part of a unit of about 46 troops sent that day to help evacuate Americans.
“As I monitor the situation in South Sudan, I may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel and property, including our embassy, in South Sudan,” Obama wrote in a letter to Congress.