51 die in 2 South Sudan clashes; army retakes town

JUBA, South Sudan

A battle in Jonglei state on Sunday killed 20 rebel fighters and four government troops, said Col. Philip Aguer. Aguer said the army recaptured the town of Boma, near the border with Ethiopia, from rebels led by David Yau Yau who took over the town earlier this month.

South Sudan's military "restored law and order to Boma and chased away the rebels to the hills outside town," he said.

Aguer said government forces found food manufactured in the East African country of Eritrea on the ground, but he said that officials don't have evidence that Eritrea is helping the rebels.

South Sudan accuses Sudan of supporting Yau Yau's rebellion in order to block South Sudan's plans to build an oil pipeline through Jonglei state and Ethiopia. South Sudan must currently export its oil through pipelines owned by Sudan. It plans to build a new pipeline would reduce its dependence upon Sudan.

Sudan has repeatedly denied having any ties to Yau Yau's rebels and has counter-accused the south of supporting rebels in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

A Swiss based research group, Small Arms Survey, said in a recent report that Sudan supplied weapons and ammunition to the rebels.

In violence elsewhere, cattle raiders suspected to be from Jonglei state killed 27 people in Upper Nile state on Saturday morning, local officials said.

Nasir County Commissioner Dak Tap said the raiders attacked the village at night when people were sleeping.

"The attackers killed 23 people on the spot and stole more than 2,000 cattle. In the morning youth in the affected village pursued the raiders and in the ensuing exchange of fire four more people, including three rebels, were killed," said Tap.

Jonglei state, South Sudan's largest state, has a long history of inter-communal violence mostly related to cattle-raiding. Since South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011, the cattle raids have become more frequent and deadly.

Instability in Jonglei state and South Sudan as a whole is due in part to easy access to weapons. A government disarmament campaign launched in Jonglei last year ended up boosting insecurity and was accompanied by abuses against civilians, according to a United Nations report released last year.

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