South Sudan Conflict: Pro-Machar Forces ‘seize’ Oil Hub

South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar sits in the bush in a rebel-controlled territory in Jonglei State January 31, 2014.
South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar sits in the bush in a rebel-controlled territory in Jonglei State January 31, 2014.

Rebel forces in South Sudan have recaptured the oil hub of Bentiu from the government, their spokesman says.

Oil companies should halt operations immediately and evacuate their staff within a week, Brig Gen Lul Ruai said.

An army spokesman denied Bentiu had fallen, saying fighting was continuing.

The two sides have repeatedly accused each other of violating a ceasefire signed in January.

More than one million people have been displaced in the conflict, which broke out about a month earlier after South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Mr Machar denied the allegation, but then launched a rebellion to overthrow Mr Kiir.

His forces took control of Bentiu, capital of Unity state, soon after the conflict started. However, government forces drove the rebels out of the the city on 10 January.

Unity state is rich in oil, the main foreign exchange earner of South Sudan. Oil production in South Sudan dropped by 20% after the conflict started.

China and Russia are among the major investors in South Sudan’s oil industry. Brig Gen Lul Ruai warned firms not to defy the order to shut operations.

Otherwise, they risked a “forced oil shutdown and the safety of their staff”, he said.

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