LEER – Fierce fighting has erupted in Leer County of South Sudan’s Unity State after government-allied militias, backed by the army, launched a violent assault on a Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) base located east of Leer town.
The attack, occurring early in the morning, has been reported by both residents and senior SPLA-IO officials.
Maj. Gen. Gatgok Khor Riaka, the commander of SPLA-IO’s division 4B, told Sudans Post that the assault targeted Kaigai village, emphasizing that it was instigated by militias led by Gen. Simon Maguek and supported by South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF).
“The confrontation is ongoing at Kaigai village. The attack from Gen. Simon Maguek’s militias, backed by SSPDF forces, commenced at 5:00 AM,” he said.
SPLA-IO spokesperson Lam Paul Gabriel confirmed the attack and revealed that the attackers, associated with General Maguek Gai, had intentions apparently focused on seizing Adok Port, situated east of Leer town.
The spokesman for SPLA-IO’s sector two command confirmed the surprise attack by SSPDF and allied militias at Kaigai, stressing the urgent need to halt the conflict, which poses a threat to the ongoing peace process.
“We call upon all South Sudanese and leaders of Unity State to intervene and stop this needless morning skirmish that erupted in Leer County. It’s our collective responsibility to end this senseless war,” he told Sudans Post in Bentiu.
Escaping residents from Leer expressed said they have been concerned over the past week due to the unusual presence of militias from Koch and Mayendit Counties inside Leer town.
They described today’s outbreak of violence as an expected development, considering the prolonged presence of these militias.
“We’ve been on edge for days. These militias arrived from Koch and Mayendit Counties and their presence in the county headquarters alarmed us,’ shared one fleeing resident, accompanied by two women and children,” said one man fleeing alongside two women, an old man, and children.
Today’s fighting comes after Sudans Post reported in an investigative story last week the tensions between the SSPDF and the main armed opposition SPLA-IO in Leer.
The tensions occurred following last month’s defection of former SPLA-IO sector two commander Maj. Gen. Simon Maguek Gai to the SSPDF.
Maguek announced his defection at the SPLM headquarters in Juba on October 7, and then travelled to Leer on a government chattered flight to Leer town on October 12.
His arrival in Leer sparked tensions in the area as he gathered militias from southern Koch and Mayendit inside Leer town.