South Sudan army says rebels bombard Bantio city in Unity State

KHARTOUM, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) — South Sudan’s army on Tuesday announced that the rebel forces, led by Riek Machar, bombarded the capital city of the oil-rich Unity State, breaching a recent cease-fire agreement.

“The rebels on Tuesday bombarded Bantio city in Unity State and also Al-Nasir town… attacked a camp of the government army at Obodo area of Al-Shuluk kingdom in Upper Nile State,” a spokesman for the South Sudanese army said.

He added that “this is the fourth attack of its kind by Riek Machar forces during the past two weeks. This is a clear violation of the ceasefire agreement.”

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit and rebel leader Riek Machar signed an agreement on Feb. 2, which stipulated the cease-fire, the sharing of power and the formation of an interim government, hoping to end the conflict by March 5.

Seyoum Mesfin, chief mediator of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development, earlier announced that the two South Sudanese rivals are expected to sign a final agreement on Feb. 20.

South Sudan plunged into violence in December 2013, when fighting erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir Mayardit and defectors led by his former deputy Riek Machar.

The conflict soon turned into an all-out war and has taken on an ethnic dimension that pitted the president’s Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

The clashes have left thousands of South Sudanese dead and forced around 1.9 million people to flee their homes.