Juba govt says Machar rebel forces killed dozens of women, children in village attack

At least 25 people, mainly women and children confirmed dead in attack by forces loyal to Riek Machar

SOUTH SUDAN–At least 25 people, mainly women and children, have been confirmed dead and 40 others injured after rebel forces loyal to SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar carried out bloody attacks on Bangketa village in Maban County of Northern Upper Nile on Saturday morning.

South Sudanese government troops in the area say they were initially ordered by Juba not to retaliate as ceasefire takes effect.

The Saturday attack, coming hours before the ceasefire following fresh rounds of peace talks between the government and the rebels, has seen both sides trade associations for the responsibility.

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President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Dr Riek March fell out in December 2013 in what led to a civil war that is yet to be fully resolved. The two bushwar comrades turned nemesis have had several attempts at reconciliation going to waste, with the latest as recent as this week in Khartoum mediated by Sudan President Omar al Bashir and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

However, even before the two foes had returned from the trip to Khartoum and taken off their jackets, hostility flared with clashes reported at villages around the rebel strongholds.

Both sides continue to trade accusations over the attacks.

The SPLM-IO deputy spokesperson Paul Gabriel Lam Saturday said the government army had  carried out an attack on their position in Mlboro, Wau State.

“The aggressors came from Wau and Aweil on 14 Land Cruisers, three Woral trucks and four APCs. This happened just hours after the ceasefire takes effect. The fight is still ongoing as I write,” Lam said.

However, the South Sudanese army rejected the claim, saying Mlboro has been under the control of the SPLA since 2016. The government accused the Machar rebels of launching a series of attacks across the country seeking “to gain more territories” before the ceasefire comes into effect.

As the two warring sides continue to exchange fire while trading blame games, it has now emerged the hapless women and children are the majority victims.

Rescuers in the village attacked say more bodies are suspected to be scattered within and around the village. Dozens of the injured are now undergoing medication at Adar Hospital.

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