South Sudan fighting persists as cease-fire approaches: UN

AP News
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Posted: Aug 29, 2015 1:14 PM

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Violent clashes continued between South Sudan's warring factions Saturday before a cease-fire is to come into effect on Sunday, U.N., government and rebel officials said.

There was an exchange of fire Friday night, said Joe Contreras, spokesman for the U.N. mission in South Sudan.

A government soldier was wounded when rebels shelled Malakal, the capital of war-town Upper Nile state on Friday night and Saturday morning, and government troops responded with fire, said South Sudan's military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer.

"Should forces of Riek Machar continue to attack (government) forces in Malakal, we have the right of self-defense," he said.

Rebel spokesman James Gatdet Dak confirmed the fighting but blamed the government for instigating the attack. He said the rebels fired in self-defense.

It was not possible to independently verify either side's allegations.

Malakal, once one of South Sudan's major cities, is now deserted except for government troops stationed there and nearly 50,000 civilians sheltering inside a nearby U.N. base.

South Sudan's warring factions have previously signed many cease-fires that have been quickly violated. Both sides have issued cease-fire orders which go into force on Sunday.

President Salva Kiir on Wednesday signed the compromise peace deal, mediated by the leaders of neighboring countries and with U.N. backing. Rebel leader, former Deputy President Riek Machar, signed the same document last week.

Before signing it, Kiir called the agreement flawed, citing many reservations. Rebels have since said those reservations indicate Kiir is not committed to implementing the entire agreement.

The U.S. has said it will press sanctions against those who violate the accord, designed to end more than 20 months of fighting.