At least 200 people died when a boat ferrying people fleeing reports of violence in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state sank, army spokesman Philip Aguer said.
The boat, whose passengers included women and children, sank yesterday, Aguer said in a phone interview today from the capital, Juba. Malakal, the capital of South Sudan’s second-biggest oil-producing state of Upper Nile, is situated on the eastern banks of the White Nile River. Rebel forces said today they are advancing on Malakal and expect to capture the town within 24 hours.
Violence erupted in the world’s newest nation on Dec. 15 after President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of trying to stage a coup, a charge Machar denies. The dispute escalated into clashes between members of Kiir’s ethnic Dinka community and Machar’s Nuer group. The death toll from the fighting is approaching 10,000, according to the International Crisis Group, while the United Nations says about 395,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.
Reports that rebels captured Malakal are “lies,” and the only fighting going on in the country is taking place south of Bor, capital of Jonglei state, Aguer said.
“No fighting is going on in Malakal,” he said. Government forces expect to reach Bor by tomorrow and recapture the town from rebel forces within 48 hours, he said.
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