Dozens of SSPDF soldiers killed in latest Abyei-Twic fighting
In the latest escalation of the border dispute between the Ngok Dinka of Abyei and Warrap State’s Twic County, dozens of soldiers were killed and several injured, including the families of soldiers, during a dawn attack on an SSPDF barracks in the Ayouk area on the border of Abyei and Twic County.
The SSPDF’s Division 3 commander, Major General Akuei Ajou, told Radio Tamazuj Monday that armed elements from the Ngok Dinka from the Abyei Administrative Area and Nuer youth from Unity State attacked a military base in Ayuok on Monday at 5 a.m. and killed 19 soldiers and some of their family members.
He said 8 soldiers were killed, and 8 others wounded while 11 family members of the soldiers and 4 of the assailants were also killed.
“A huge number of Ngong Dinka and Nuer youth attacked our base where we have the SSPDF’s Abyei Independent Brigade and other units in the Ayuok area which is situated between Ngong and Twic on Monday at 5 a.m.,” he said. “There have been disputes over this area (Ayuok) between Twic and Ngok Dinka communities and that is why the SSPDF was deployed to maintain security.”
“The Nuer mercenaries and Ngok Dinka youth have allied to capture the area from the national army and start launching their attacks against Twic from there,” Gen. Ajou added.
However, the paramount chief of the Ngok Dinka in Abyei, Bulabek Deng Kuol, said the deadly attack was connected to the frequent skirmishes, incursions, and looting orchestrated by armed youth from Twic County. He claims that Twic fighters deployed reinforcements in Abyei’s Makuac Deng Ayuel and Makuac Lueth areas that were given to UNISFA for operations.
The paramount chief stated that the Ngok youth only attacked armed elements from Twic when they were returning home and fell in an ambush coordinated by the SSPDF soldiers.
“If you were following, there have been consecutive attacks in Athony and surrounding areas where goods vehicles were attacked and looted so our (Ngok Dinka) youth decided to investigate where the attackers came from,” he explained. “The whole process was done in collaboration with the army in Nyindeng Ayuel. Makuac Deng Ayuel belongs to the Abyei Administrative Area, but UNISFA forces were deployed there to separate the Ngok and Twic and Ngok citizens withdrew from the area. The area was then invaded by Twic youth who launched hostilities against Ngok Dinka.”
“Our youth found out that Twic fighters were reinforcing in Makuac Lueth which is situated west of Athony Ayuok so they went there and clashed with the fighters from Twic and after they tried to come back, the army base in Athony Ayuok ambushed them and shelled them from two sides, a move that forced our youth to break into the military base to secure their safety,” Chief Bulabek added.
According to the paramount chief, two of his Ngok youth were killed and seven were injured during the fighting on Monday.
For his part, Bol Koch, the Abyei information minister, also faulted armed youth from Warrap’s Twic County for the attack because they established an illegal checkpoint in the Abyei territory of Ayuok which the army tried to remove.
“What happened in Athony village is that armed youth from Twic County backed up by the militia of Gai Machiek created an illegal checkpoint at Ayuok sub-village in Athony area and when SSPDF went there, they clashed and 21 soldiers were killed and 9 injured. The wounded soldiers have been taken to Mayen Abun Hospital in Twic County and the ones with serious injuries were referred to Wau Teaching Hospital,” he said. “The communal conflict has now changed its nature and is now a national issue because SSPDF soldiers were killed. This is not good because this road is a lifeline for South Sudan and not only Abyei and Twic. A lot of looting has occurred on this road in the recent past with armed Twic setting up checkpoints and charging drivers SSP 100,000 forcefully.”
“We have been telling the authorities of Twic County in Warrap State to talk to their youth to end this senseless conflict in vain,” Minster Koch added.
Meanwhile, Twic County Commissioner Simon Aguek claims the Monday morning attack was carried out in his area of jurisdiction by armed Ngok Dinka youth from Abyei who killed 35 SSPDF soldiers and civilians.
“The armed youth from Abyei came to Ayuok village in Twic County along the road leading to Akech-Nhial and Abyei with heavy machine guns and attacked soldiers stationed there and killed about 35 SSPDF soldiers and civilians,” he charged. “You can interview some of the wounded soldiers and civilians and find out who attacked them.”
Commissioner Aguek confirmed that some of the people with serious injuries were taken to Wau and those with slight wounds are receiving treatment at Turalei Hospital.
He described the security situation as very tense and said an army commander, Major John Akol, and his bodyguards were killed in the clashes and that the officer’s body has been taken to Aweil in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State for burial.
It has been difficult for Radio Tamazuj to establish the true number of casualties because of the mixed and partisan information on the ground and efforts to contact SSPDF Spokesperson Gen. Lul Ruai Koang were futile as he did not answer his known telephones.
Radio Tamazuj will keep you posted.