South Sudanese troops are fighting to stop rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar taking control of the major oil producing Upper Nile state capital, Malakal, the presidential spokesperson said on Wednesday.
"There has been heavy fighting between the forces loyal to Dr Riek Machar and the government forces (in Malakal)," presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny told Reuters by phone. The rebels first attacked Malakal on Tuesday morning, he said.
Ateny said Upper Nile oil fields, which produce about 200,000 barrels of oil per day, were far away from Malakal and under government control. "The oil fields are safe," he said.
UN Security Council on Tuesday voted to enlarge the number of UN peacekeepers in South Sudan to protect civilians from the worsening violence.
The council approved to expand the peacekeeping forces to include 12,500 servicemen and 1,323 policemen, from its current number of 7,000 and 900 respectively
The council approved to expand the peacekeeping forces to include 12,500 servicemen and 1,323 policemen, from its current number of 7,000 and 900 respectively.
"I welcome today's resolution calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and opening of dialogue, demanding that all parties cooperate fully with UNMISS (United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan) and authorizing the temporary strengthening of protection capacities with additional, police and logical assets from other UN missions," said Ban Ki-Moon, UN secretary-general at the council meeting.
During the press briefing held after the vote, Ban said they would send 5,500 peacekeeping servicemen and 440 policemen first to South Sudan.
The additional servicemen and policemen will help reinforce the UN bases in a bid to protect about 45,000 civilians sheltered there and these troops and policemen would be drawn from nearby UN and African Union missions in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and the Sudanese regions of Darfur and Abyei.
Ban said the crisis in South Sudan was a political crisis which requires a peaceful political solution. And, he urged the leaders of South Sudan to bring an end to the violence.
"This is a political crisis which requires a peaceful political solution. In this season of peace, I urge the leaders of South Sudan to act for peace, stop the violence, start the dialogue, save your proud in the newly independent country. There is no time to lose," said Ban.