Nairobi — A South Sudanese top army general loyal to president Salva Kiir has been killed by rebels allied to former vice president, Riek Machar as the army battled rebels to retake the strategic town of Bor on Friday.
Lt. Gen. Malual Ayom, the deputy chief of general staff for administration in the Sudan People's Liberation (SPLA) and "some" other senior officers were reportedly killed around Jameza area, about 35 miles from Bor.
The death of the senior general was not made public until Sunday. A military source in the SPLA on Friday claimed several senior military officers were also killed, but could not name them. He described the incident as a "disaster."
Rebel sources put the total numbers of the government troops killed in that particular incident at "more than 800", but SPLA spokesperson, Philip Aguer, only said an army general was "seriously wounded", referring to the demise of the senior officer.
The death of the general was, however, confirmed by the rebels and army sources that preferred anonymity. A BBC correspondent on the ground also reported the killing of a general.
Ayom, who also hails from Bor, commanded thousands of government troops to recapture his home area from the rebels. He was killed when his forces were "crushed" on the Juba-Bor road before reaching Bor.
The names of the other generals also killed were not released.
REBELS CLAIM DEFEATING THE ARMY ON SUNDAY
Another fierce fighting also erupted on Sunday when the army attempted to move and recapture Bor, resulting into the death of SPLA Gen. Abraham Jongror Deng.
The army could, however, not confirm this, but vowed that the rebel-held town of Bor would fall in to government hands "within the next 24 hours".
The military spokesperson told reporters in Juba on Sunday that some soldiers defected from their barracks in part of the country's Central and Western Equatoria states, but refuted claims of weaknesses in the army structure.
"There is no sign of collapse in the army", Aguer said, stressing that army defection was part of any conflict.
A rebel source, however, said they "lured" the SPLA forces into ambush about 25 kilometers from Bor, adding that the government troops bypassed them while coming through Eastern Equatoria state.
He said the SPLA forces didn't pass through Juba-Bor road, which the rebels claim to have closed as they match to Juba, the nation's capital.
"Our forces near Juba knew they were coming and so we trapped them by letting them move deep without noticing our presence along the road sides and in the forests. We then closed them in from the behind. They were defeated and their remnants were running back to Eastern Equatoria state as we have closed the Juba-Bor road," said the rebel source.
Other media houses, including the BBC confirmed Sunday's fighting on the road to Bor describing it as "chaotic."
The rebels also claimed that another force moving on the River Nile from Juba to Bor was also destroyed on Sunday, with many boats sunk or captured, while their remnants reportedly retreated back to Juba.
The number of casualties was not yet known as the SPLA did not comment on the latest development.
Meanwhile the rebels further insist that they were getting closer to the country's capital, a claim the government dismisses as mere threats.
The fighting which began as a misunderstanding between presidential guard units has turned into a tribal war fitting the Dinka, the largest ethnic group in South Sudan, against the Nuer, the second largest.