South Sudan defense minister says rebels shell oil town of Bentiu
South Sudan’s defense minister has accused rebels of shelling government positions in the oil town of Bentiu, in an apparent violation of an agreement on the cessation of hostilities.
Kuol Manyang told media outlets that forces loyal to former vice president, Riek Machar, shelled government positions in the capital of oil-rich Unity State on Tuesday.
“The rebels are shelling our positions in Bentiu,” Manyang said, adding that the military will “act in self defense.”
The senior official also called the recent attack a clear violation of an agreement signed earlier this month that called for an end to the conflict between rebels and the government.
Bentiu has been hotly contested between the two sides of the conflict, with control of the town changing hands several times.
The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan descended into chaos in late 2013, after President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy, Machar, of attempting to stage a coup.
Since then, forces loyal to each side have been engaged in fierce fighting across the country, despite numerous ceasefire deals.
The next round of peace talks will resume on February 19 and will be completed by March 5.
International mediators involved in the dispute have set a March 5 deadline for a final pact.
According to UN figures, more than half of South Sudan’s 12 million population are in dire need of humanitarian aid, with over 20 percent of people at risk of suffering from famine.