SPLA claims victory in Bor; most of Gadet's troops leave town

The SPLA claims to have regained control of Bor, the capital of Jonglei. It announced its victory on the State Television. Local witnesses confirmed to Radio Tamazuj that the troops of the defected Nuer commander Peter Gadet had to withdraw from their main positions in town. Fighting was continuing nearby the airport.

A mass convergence of SPLA troops near Bor launched attacks on the positions of Gadet from 2pm until 4 pm. By then Gadet was still in control of the Jonglei capital Bor where more than 15,000 civilians – mainly Dinka – have taken refuge in the UN peacekeeping compound. Army spokesman Philip Aguer said to Radio Tamazuj that the army took first control over the Pan-pandiar army headquarters and Malual-chaat village, both 5km away from Bor town, where the fighting last Wednesday started. He expected to retake Bor within 72 hours, but he declared victory at 7.30. Local reporters say the fighting was still continuing especially near the airport.

At 3 p.m. Radio Tamazuj reporters recorded the sound of heavy guns and tanks. A massive build-up of troops loyal to President Salva Kiir has been positioned 5 km north of Bor since 2pm. The SPLA was moving with eight pick-ups at the time, each carrying 12 soldiers. They approached the town, dropped the men off, and moved back. Heavily loaded SPLA vehicles passed through the Gakyom feeder road to Bor.

Thousands of civilians fled Bor some days ago after the defection of Peter Gadet. They are hiding north of town in ditches and in the bush. When they saw the troops coming they tried to flee, one man told Radio Tamazuj. ‘The soldiers told us: Do not run away from us. We are your army. They asked us to keep hiding. Just minutes later, we heard the sound of gunfire in the town”. According to reports received Monday, Peter Gadet was residing in the nearby settlement Mareng outside Bor. They heard constant shooting and soon afterwards, Gadet retreated to Bor town where he apparently also had to withdraw.

 UN compound

Several civilians in the UN compound told Radio Tamazuj how dire their situation was: “We are only given water from the river Nile collected by water tanks which is not very safe to drink, but we have nothing else to drink’. Others were complaining about a lack of medication for children suffering from malaria and diarrhoea.

Two women were reportedly abducted on Monday as they moved out of the compound to fetch water from a borehole close to the UNMISS gate. A source inside the camp says he does not feel safe inside the compound any more. “We saw several men under the command of Peter Gadet moving their women and children from the compound because the SPLA announced it would send additional troops to recapture Bor. The families of soldiers have been transferred to army barracks instead. I can see one of the rebels moving inside the camp right now”, he told Radio Tamazuj.

Some 250 aid workers and civilian UNMISS staff, the UN mission in South Sudan, were evacuated from the camp. According to an update report by the UN OCHA, an estimated 2,000 people are sheltering in another UNMISS base in Pibor town in Jonglei.

Photo: 15,000 people seeking refuge in Bor UN compound (UNMISS).