Breaking: Rebel stronghold falls to government troops

File photo: Rebel fighters hold up their rifles as they walk in front of a
bushfire in a rebel-controlled territory in Upper Nile State in 2014.

South Sudanese government troops have entered the area of Pagak as rebels
allied to former first vice president Riek Machar abandoned what was the
last significant town they were holding.

The capture of Pagak comes after the Troika and the European Union
condemned the government of South Sudan’s current offensive against
opposition forces around Pagak recently.

Pagak, located on South Sudan’s border with neighbouring Ethiopia, was one
of the last remaining strongholds of the opposition.Paul Lam Gabriel, rebel
deputy spokesman said: “Sincerely, we were attacked by the government
forces yesterday in Pagak, so we clashed but we decided to withdraw from
Pagak. Now the government is controlling Pagak."

The rebel spokesman confirmed the pull-out on Sunday night. He cited the
violent bombardment by government forces as the reason behind the SPLA-IO
withdrawal. “The artillery and bombardments were very heavy, and there were
civilians,” said Lam.

He pointed out that thousands of civilians crossed Ethiopia after the
government attack. Lam claimed that they will fight back to retake Pagak at
any time.

South Sudan’s presidency confirmed that the government forces had captured
Pagak area. “Our forces have been repulsing frequent attacks by Riek
Machar’s forces, so it was necessary for us to enter Pagak in
self-defense,” President Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek said.

The government-allied opposition faction claimed that the SPLA-IO forces
withdrew from Pagak without any fighting.Dickson Gatluak Jok, the
spokesperson of the SPLA-IO faction led by the First Vice-President Taban
Deng Gai, accused the opposition faction allied to Riek Machar of setting
fire on ammunition stories before withdrawing its troops from the area

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