Juba — South Sudanese rival forces on Sunday traded accusations over violations of the ceasefire deal with both sides claiming to control Nasir, a strategic Upper Nile state town.
South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson Col. Philip Aguer told Sudan Tribune that government forces were still in control of their positions in the town, although rebel forces penetrated some parts before getting sustained military engagement.
"The SPLA forces remained in control of their positions and the fighting is continuing", Aguer said Sunday.
The military officer pointed out that the positions of the government forces were subjected to bombardments by the rival forces since Saturday, but never responded as they were acting in self defense in order not to be seen as having violated the cessation of hostilities agreement which rival leaders signed in May.
"The rebels of Riek Machar are in it again. In the face of international community, they have violated the cessation of hostilities agreement by launching attacks on the positions of the SPLA at Nasir airport this morning with mortar rounds, rockets and tank fire," Aguer told Sudan Tribune.
Upper Nile state information minister, Philip Jiden Ogal, confirmed that heavy gun battle locked the main airport, with reports alleging that at least 230 several fighters were killed in the fighting.
He said shelling of the town started on Saturday and resumed at Nasir airport on Sunday, after several attempts at a ceasefire failed. Rockets and tanks were allegedly used.
"The rebels have been planning the attack and so the fighting began last week when they (rebels) started moving closure to the town and commenced bombing the town", said Ogal.
South Sudan has been spellbound by instability when fighting within the presidential guard force erupted in December 2013, prior extending to other areas and leaving swathes of the country control of the rebel fighters allied to the former vice president Riek Machar.
Repeated attempts by government forces to contain the conflict remain futile despite the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreements. Rebel forces claimed they were acting in self defense as the latter attempted to assassinate their appointed military governor.
The military spokesperson for the rebels, Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang earlier said their forces had for the last three days been fighting in self-defense in order to "protect and prevent unlawfully arrest of the top military commander".
IGAD CONDEMNS ATTACK
The special envoys from the regional bloc (IGAD) have strongly condemn this attack in Nasir by forces of the SPLM/A-In Opposition, describing it a blatant violation of Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Agreement, signed between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the rebels on 23 January.
"While the casualties of this attack are yet to be assessed, the mediation team is saddened by the continued loss of lives not only of combatants, but of vulnerable groups like women and children," IGAD said in a statement.
Both warring parties, the regional bloc said, had on 10 June pledged to "end the war now" and establish a transitional government within 60 days.
"In view of the above and of reports of rising tensions in other areas, the IGAD Special Envoys appeal to the Parties to remain committed to the Agreements signed and to exercise maximum restraints and desist from any further violations," IGAD further observed.
Talks between the two parties, currently on hold, is seen as the best alternative to the country's seven-month old conflict that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 1.5 million people.