23 December 2013, Bentiu — South Sudan’s army has lost control over the 4th Division in the oil-producing Unity State after the commander of the force defected and declared himself military governor of the state. Mutineers clashed with troops loyal to President Kiir inside the barracks of the SPLA 4thDivision in Bentiu since about 7:00 p.m. Friday, Radio Tamazuj has learned.
Heavy fighting over four hours resulted in the retreat of the loyal forces from the barracks, according to a source in the city who requested anonymity.
Commander James Koang of the 4th Division announced subsequently over state-run Bentiu Radio that the state was now under his control and that he was no longer taking orders from Juba.
He did not mention any association to former vice president Riek Machar, the most prominent political opponent of the government still at large. But according to a BBC reporter who spoke over the phone to the ex-VP today, Machar is claiming Koang’s allegiance.
The defected commander also declared that all ministers and commissioners were dismissed, and named no replacements. He said lower level officials could continue working.
According to a security source north of the state capital, the acting governor and deputy governor fled from the city.
Fighting in Pariang
The northern county of Pariang also witnessed clashes last night, Friday, from about 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. but remains under the control of the government.
At least 10 people were killed including five from the government side and five from the other side. Many people are also reported wounded or missing.
No fighting was reported in the morning in Pariang town itself.