South Sudan rebels claim to have retaken Bor

South Sudan army troops fought rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar in the flashpoint town

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Rebels in South Sudan said they had recaptured the key town of Bor on Tuesday after a pre-dawn assault on government forces.

“Bor is under our control... we are now in Bor town,” rebel spokesman Moses Ruai told Agence France-Presse.

Government officials had earlier confirmed heavy fighting in the town, but the rebel claim could not be immediately verified.

Bor, the capital of volatile Jonglei state, lies some 200 kilometers north of Juba.

South Sudanese army spokesman Philip Aguer disputed the claim, saying the fighting was ongoing.

“That is not true. There is still fighting in Bor. The fighting is not yet over,” he told AFP.

South Sudan army troops fought rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar in the flashpoint town.

The mayor of the town told Reuters news agency the fighting came despite a deadline imposed by East African nations for an end to hostilities nearing.

“We are fighting the rebels now,” Mayor Nhial Majak Nhial told Reuters by phone from the outskirts of Bor, which lies 190 km to the north of the capital, Juba, by road.

The world’s youngest nation, which only won independence in 2011, plunged into chaos on December 15 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy of mounting a coup.

Bloodshed has swept across the nation, with fierce battles reported in strategic oil-producing areas and grim reports of massacres, rapes and killings.

Regional leaders at the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have set Tuesday as a deadline for face-to-face talks between Kiir and Machar.

South Sudan will send a delegation to Ethiopia for peace talks and the Ethiopian government said rebel leader Riek Machar would also send a team to the talks in
its capital.

"We are going there," South Sudan Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told Reuters.

The United States is pushing to get rival South Sudanese leaders to the negotiating table and end two weeks of bloodshed.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned both sides that the U.S. would cut off its vital aid lifeline to the country if there is any bid to seize power by force.

The African Union has threatened targeted sanctions against those inciting the violence in South Sudan and hampering international efforts to negotiate an end to the two-week outburst of fighting.

Kiir has ruled out power sharing with rebels to end a "senseless war." he told the BBC, but added military solutions would also not end the conflict.

The world's youngest nation plunged into chaos on December 15 when Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of mounting a coup, sparking deadly violence believed to have left thousands dead.

"What power sharing? It is not an option. This man has rebelled. If you want power, you don't rebel so that you are awarded with the power," Kiir said in an interview broadcast on the BBC Tuesday.

"You go through the process. When I came here I did not come through a military coup, I came because I was elected by the people."

Kiir, a former rebel commander, was elected president of South Sudan in 2011, just before the country became formally independent from Sudan.

"Elections are coming in 2015. Why did he not wait so that he goes through that same process?" Kiir added. "If he wins the elections, he then comes to this office."

"There can be no military solutions to any conflict, you try both military solutions and political solutions. Since day one I have said that I will resolve it by peaceful means," he added.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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