Rebels pursuing 20,000 S. Sudanese fleeing Jonglei State's Duk County: MP
Thursday, February 27, 2014
By Okech Francis
JUBA – About 20,000 people fleeing the fighting in Duk County in South Sudan`s Jonglei State are allegedly being pursued by rebel forces loyal to sacked vice-president Riek Machar, according to a lawmaker.
"A very big exodus from Duk Payuen, Duk Padiet, Mareng, Dongdak, Pagaak, Pageleng, Pajut and Paugmoi – about 20,000 people – are now moving to safer areas, following the Nile south towards Panyagoor in Twic East," Philip Thon Leek Deng, a Duk County lawmaker, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.
"But there are reports that the rebels are trying to follow them," he added.
Rebels attacked the area late Wednesday, said Deng, who went on to lament the absence of the Sudan People`s Liberation Army (SPLA).
"There`s no SPLA base in the area and the police here are very few," he said. "It`s the youth who are trying to protect their people, but they can`t handle the rebel forces."
"They were defeated because the rebels were using very big guns," the MP added.
"The rebels are now in full control of the area, and there`s no contact with whoever has been caught up there," he said. "We don`t know what`s happening."
He said the paramount chief of Duk County, James Chuei, had been captured by the attackers.
"We had told him before to mobilize the people and evacuate the area, but the old man didn`t want to leave," said Deng.
According to Deng, other groups of people are moving westward in hopes of hiding in swampy areas.
"All these people are having a challenge of getting food, with most of them very weak," he told AA. "They left their homes hurriedly and could not carry anything. What was left has also been looted."
"There are children, women and elderly moving in the different groups," he noted, adding that young people had stayed behind to fight the rebels.
After occupying Duk, MP Deng said, some rebel groups had been seen moving towards Gadiang, a town located roughly 80km north of state capital Bor.
The South Sudanese army announced on Sunday that it had repulsed three separate rebel attacks on Gadiang.
Army spokesman Philip Aguer could not be reached for comment.
At a Wednesday press conference, however, Aguer confirmed the rebel presence in Duk County.
"We have information that the rebels have settled in the area and have destroyed a lot of property and government offices," he said.
In recent days, rebel forces have stepped up attacks in South Sudan`s Upper Nile and Jonglei states.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.
The violence has already claimed more than 10,000 lives.
The UN estimates that some 3.7 million South Sudanese are now "severely food insecure," while more than 867,000 have been displaced by the fighting.
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