Rebel stronghold falls to government troops
South Sudanese government troops have entered the area of Pagak as rebels allied to former first vice president Riek Machar abandoned what was the last significant town they were holding.
The capture of Pagak comes after the Troika and the European Union condemned the government of South Sudan’s current offensive against opposition forces around Pagak recently.
Pagak, located on South Sudan’s border with neighbouring Ethiopia, was one of the last remaining strongholds of the opposition.
Paul Lam Gabriel, rebel deputy spokesman said: “Sincerely, we were attacked by the government forces yesterday in Pagak, so we clashed but we decided to withdraw from Pagak. Now the government is controlling Pagak."
The rebel spokesman confirmed to Radio Tamazuj the pull-out on Sunday night. He cited the violent bombardment by government forces as the reason behind the SPLA-IO withdrawal. “The artillery and bombardments were very heavy, and there were civilians,” said Lam.
He pointed out that thousands of civilians crossed to Ethiopia after the government attack. Lam claimed that they will fight back to retake Pagak at any time.
South Sudan’s presidency confirmed that the government forces had captured Pagak area. “Our forces have been repulsing frequent attacks by Riek Machar’s forces, so it was necessary for us to enter Pagak in self-defense,” President Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek told Radio Tamazuj.
The government-allied opposition faction claimed that the SPLA-IO forces withdrew from Pagak without any fighting.
Dickson Gatluak Jok, the spokesperson of the SPLA-IO faction led by the First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai, accused the opposition faction allied to Riek Machar of setting fire on ammunition stories before withdrawing its troops from the area yesterday.