A rebel leader was shot and killed Saturday by his own men in an oil-rich area of South Sudan days after he signed a peace deal to integrate his forces into the southern army, an army official said.
Gatluak Gai was shot dead at his headquarters in Unity state after "an internal division" within his ranks over an amnesty deal he signed earlier this week, South Sudan army spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said. Three others were also killed in the shooting, he said.
Gai was a former prison officer who rebelled against the Juba-based southern government after the disputed April 2010 national elections.
The latest case of rebel-related violence comes less than three weeks after South Sudan became the world's newest nation, born as one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world and afflicted by conflict in nine of its 10 states.
"Shooting erupted at his headquarters (in the village of Pakur in Unity state) and Gatluak Gai and three others were killed," Aguer said. "That was after he already signed the ceasefire."
The Sudan People's Liberation Army had sent a delegation to the Unity state capital of Bentiu to initiate the integration process for Gai's forces.
"Then Gai changed his mind...his deputy and other officers disagreed with him and fighting erupted in his headquarters," Aguer said.
However, a spokesman for Peter Gadet, a separate rebel leader also active in Unity state, blamed the southern army for the shootings.
"Gatluak Gai was killed by the SPLA," said Bol Gatkuoth. "They shot him."
Representatives from Gai's rebel group could not be reached for comment.
The United Nations estimates that there at least seven rebel groups active in South Sudan. The U.N.'s latest statistics say nearly 2,400 people have been killed in internal violence in the south this year.
Since rebel groups like Gai's became active in the aftermath of the 2010 elections, the southern government and army officials have accused the Khartoum-based northern government of backing the rebels active in the south with the aim of destabilizing the area in the run-up to southern independence.
At his independence day speech on July 9, South Sudan President Salva Kiir told tens of thousands of his citizens and world leaders who had gathered in the southern capital that it is his government's responsibility "to protect ourselves, our land, and our resources," and that his government could no longer blame its internal problems on outsiders.