South Sudanese rebels withdraw tactically from Melut town: spokesperson
May 20, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s armed opposition faction led by former vice president, Riek Machar, said their forces have tactically withdrawn from the oil-rich Melut town which they captured on Tuesday from president Salva Kiir’s government.
- South Sudanese soldiers stand during President Salva Kiir’s visit to an oil refinery in Melut, Upper Nile State, South Sudan on November 20, 2012 (Getty Images)
Rebel leader’s spokesman said the opposition forces on Wednesday afternoon made a tactical withdrawal to a few kilometres in the outskirts of the town, adding that they would move back to the town centre any time soon.
“Our forces have tactically withdrawn to a few kilometres outside Melut town in order to reorganize for next move,” Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, said in a press statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
He said the rebel forces have also remained in full control of the country’s Thiangrial refinery site in the area, which they captured from the government forces on Tuesday.
He said the temporary withdrawal from town centre was meant to reorganize various forces and for careful planning to dislodge government forces from Paloch oilfields in a way that should avoid damage to oil facilities.
“Paloch oilfields have remained besieged and our forces are waiting for next order to move in. We intend to avoid a takeover that may damage oil facilities,” he said.
When contacted on Wednesday he told Sudan Tribune that ground assault on the main oilfields had not yet taken place, adding this would take place “anytime soon.”
He also accused government forces of preventing some of the oil workers to leave the oilfields, saying they were holding them hostage as human shield. The rebel leader’s spokesman said Juba will be held responsible for the lives of the detained oil workers.
ANOTHER GUNSHIP SHOT DOWN
Dak said the rebel forces also gunned down another helicopter gunship on Wednesday, saying it fell in Melut town and could easily be verified independently.
“SPLM/SPLA is hereby announcing that its forces have shot down another helicopter gunship on Wednesday in Melut town, South Sudan,” Dak said.
“The gunship was carrying out air raid on positions of our forces near Paloch oilfields and inside Melut town when it met its fate. It fell inside Melut town and can be easily independently verified,” he added.
Last week the rebel group claimed that it downed a gunship over Upper Nile state’s capital, Malakal and fell in the bushes. They said the gunship belonged to Uganda air force, a claim denied by the Ugandan military spokesman, Paddy Arkunda.
The statement on the latest shooting down of the second helicopter did not however said the identity of the aircraft.