The South Sudanese army yesterday said it had recaptured Malakal, a second strategic town, located 497km northeast of Juba.
South Sudan army spokesperson Col Philip Aguer said it flushed out rebels loyal to Riek Machar after engaging in fierce fighting with members of the rebel group.
“Malakal is now in the hands of the SPLA forces. We have defeated the rebel elements that fled into disarray,” Col Aguer said.
The battle for Malakal raged on for a week and according to Col Aguer, left many civilians and soldiers dead. Both the Ugandan and South Sudanese army, however declined to give details on casualties or those killed on their side. “Yes, there were causalities but I don’t have the details now,” said Aguer.
Malakal is the last major settlement under rebel control and it has changed hands three times since the conflict in South Sudan began on December 15, last year. The recapture of Malakal comes just two days after government troops backed by Ugandan army recaptured Bor, the capital of Jonglei State.
The international humanitarian organization and the media reported that the towns have seen some of the heaviest fighting in the conflict, with Bor left devastated and scores of buildings razed to the ground.
However, the rebels are reported to still be controlling large areas of the countryside in Upper Nile and Jonglei, as well as other parts of South Sudan. Thousands have been killed and half a million civilians have been forced to flee the fighting, which entered its sixth week on Monday.