South Sudanese rebels take control of capital of oil-rich state
BY WILLIAM DAVISON
MALAKAL, South Sudan (Bloomberg) -- South Sudanese rebels captured Malakal, the capital of oil-rich Upper Nile state, after 72 hours of “heavy fighting,” opposition spokesman Brigadier-General Lul Ruai Koang said.
The fighters now plan to recapture Bentiu, capital of neighboring Unity state, “within days,” Koang said in a phone interview today from Ethiopia. Rebels lost control of Bentiu on Jan. 10 when government forces advanced on the town.
At least 200 people died on Jan. 12 when a boat ferrying civilians fleeing conflict in Malakal sank. The town is situated on the eastern shore of the White Nile River.
Violence erupted in South Sudan on Dec. 15 after President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of trying to stage a coup, a charge Machar denies. The dispute escalated into clashes between members of Kiir’s ethnic Dinka community and Machar’s Nuer group.
Almost 80,000 people have fled the country since fighting began, crossing the border to countries including Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The death toll from the conflict is approaching 10,000, according to the International Crisis Group, while 413,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, according to the UN.