South Sudan army, rebels clash near Juba

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Efforts to achieve lasting peace in South Sudan were dealt a blow when fighting broke out between government forces and militants near the country’s capital, Juba.

Security was stepped up in Juba, according the reports, as the clashes broke out 50 miles, 100 kilometres away, in Lobonok, the first such fighting since the signing of the peace deal in September.

The National Salvation Front (NAS), formed by ex-general Thomas Cirillo Swaka in 2017 who called for the toppling of President Salva Kiir’s government, said it had come under attack on Tuesday morning.

NAS refused to sign a peace deal signed in September last year.

In a statement the NAS said it had killed eight “enemy soldiers”, which could not be independently confirmed.

“NAS command at Lobonok is expecting more attacks,” said the statement.

Lobonok is near Cirillo’s home town and has long been a stronghold for the rebel group.

The last fighting in the area took place in June 2018.

“Since morning we didn’t access our commanders on ground [in Lobonok] and we have no latest information there,” Lul Ruai Koang, South Sudan’s military spokesman told newsmen.

However, soldiers were deployed in Juba, carrying out more security checks than usual.

Hauwa Mustapha