S. Sudan army claims to retake Malakal from rebels

JUBA – The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) on Wednesday claimed to have recaptured Malakal, capital of the oil-rich Upper Nile State, from rebel forces loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar.

"Our forces recaptured the town at around 4:30pm," army spokesman Philip Aguer told Anadolu Agency.

"Our gallant forces entered the town of Malakal after heavy confrontations with rebel forces," he said. "The SPLA is now in full control of Malakal."

Aguer added that SPLA forces were currently pursuing the rebels towards eastern Upper Nile State.

"The rebels are retreating towards Nasir and our army is still following them," he added.

The army spokesman said details were not yet available, especially regarding the number of casualties.

Malakal had remained under rebel control since February 18 when the town was overrun by rebel forces, triggering a massive exodus by local inhabitants.

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 U.N. 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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