Nimule- The South Sudan army has gained control over key bases of the rebel leader Dr Riek Machar Teny in the oil-rich Unity and vast Jonglei State, military and local sources said.
The army seized areas of Mayom County and Rubkona and was headed to the capital Bentiu, which the rebels have controlled for several days since the military commander there defected to the rebel group.
“SPLA is [now] very close to Bentiu,” military spokesman Col Philip Aguer said in a short message to this correspondent.
Residents around Bentiu said heavy shelling was being heard in and around Bentiu as government forces launched an attack on the state capital.
“Sporadic gun shooting is being heard as of now in Bentiu town,” said a source that declined being named for fear of getting victimised.
In Jonglei State, the army has taken control of Pariak, a strategic center about 23 miles from the state capital Bor. It was not possible to contact the rebels for comment by press time.
The clashes scaled up after cease fire talks collapsed in Addis Ababa.
The rebels needed political detainees who were arrested after the December 15 failed coup attempt released before any serious talks could begin on ending the three-week long conflict.
The government insisted the talks must go on without preconditions.