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South Sudan government troops retake Malakal

January 20, 2014, 19:15 UTC+3 PRETORIA

The city is now completely in our hands - government army spokesperson

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© EPA/Phillip Dhil

PRETORIA, January 20. /ITAR-TASS/. The South Sudanese army said on Monday, January 20, its troops had retaken Malakal, the capital of the oil-rich Upper Nile state.

“The city is now completely in our hands,” army spokesperson Philip Aguer said on Monday, January 20.

Malakal has changed hands twice. On Saturday, January 18, government troops, with the support of the Ugandan army, took the Jonglei state’s capital of Bor 200 km of Juba.

Fresh fighting in the world’s newest country erupted on December 15, 2013, when President Salva Kiir said soldiers loyal to Riek Machar, dismissed from office in July of last year, had launched an attempted coup. Kiir belongs to the Dinka ethnic group and Machar to the Lou Nuer, and the conflict has been increasingly marked by reports of ethnically targeted violence, the UN said.

Thousands of people are estimated to have died in the violence and some 180,000 others have been driven from their homes, up to 75,000 of them seeking refuge on UN Mission bases, which has been authorized by the UN Security Council to almost double its armed strength to nearly 14,000 in an effort to protect civilians.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on January 2 introduced a state of emergency in two states controlled by rebels led by former deputy president Riek Machar.

The state of emergency was imposed in the states of Jonglei and Unity. On January 1, rebels took Jonglei’s capital of Bor, 200 km of Juba, the capital of the country. They have also been controlling Unity’s capital of Bentiu since December 15, 2013, when the conflict erupted.

The clashes that started in Juba have since then spread to six of the ten states.

According to the United Nations, about 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in South Sudan, including about 65,000 at the UNMISS bases. A further 42,800 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda — 32,000 of them in Uganda alone.

Humanitarian organizations report that about 10,000 people have been killed.

The United Nations has released 15 million U.S. dollars from its humanitarian rapid response fund for critical relief operations in South Sudan, where over 230,000 people have been driven from their homes since fighting erupted between government and opposition forces nearly a month ago.

Since the country gained independence in July 2011, aid agencies have received almost 74.4 million U.S. dollars from CERF for critical assistance, including food, clean water, shelter and health services.

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