New fighting in South Sudan threatens oil state capital

South Sudanese children displaced by the fighting are seen in a camp for displaced persons in the UNMISS compound in Tongping in Juba, South Sudan, February 19, 2014. Andreea Campeanu/Reuters

Juba, South Sudan South Sudan‘s army today vowed to retake the contested town of Malakal, days after rebels launched their own assault on the battered riverside city, defying a month-old ceasefire agreement.

The new fighting around Malakal is the worst violence yet since the ceasefire was signed and underscores the difficulty of reaching a political solution to the conflict amid stop-start negotiations in neighboring Ethiopia.

Opposition forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar attacked Malakal, the capital of oil-rich Upper Nile State, on Tuesday morning with mortars, and light and heavy arms. Shelling continued Wednesday, and a UN spokesperson said sporadic small-arms fire was heard Thursday.

Malakal has changed hands several times since the conflict began in December, and analysts say the new fighting is reminiscent of earlier hostilities when the government and rebels sought to gain advantage while peace talks slowly took shape. Over 500 homes in Malakal have been destroyed, according to a satellite survey.  Read more…

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