South Sudan’s army battled rebel forces yesterday in one key town, while troops flushed out insurgents in another after its recapture, as the UN moves to double its peacekeeping force to stave off civil war.
Thousands are believed to have been killed in more than a week of violence, with reports of bodies piled in mass graves amid escalating battles between troops loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and those backing his rival, former South Sudanese vice president Riek Machar.
Government forces celebrated late on Tuesday the recapture of Bor from forces loyal to Machar after the army stormed the strategic town, but battles raged elsewhere including Malakal, capital of the oil-producing Upper Nile state.
South Sudanese Minister of Information Michael Makwei denied rebel claims.
“There is fighting now in Malakal since morning between the government forces and the rebels,” Makwei said. “It is not true that the rebels have taken over.”
Fighting has spread to half the country’s 10 states, the UN said, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to the countryside and others flooding UN bases seeking shelter.