Clashes are taking place between South Sudanese government forces and rebels in Pagak, rebel spokesman says.

A South Sudanese government soldier holds a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in Malakal, South Sudan. (File photo)
A South Sudanese government soldier holds a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in Malakal, South Sudan. (File photo)

Heavy fighting erupted in the South Sudanese town of Pagak, near the Ethiopian border, when rebels launched an offensive against government forces, the rebels said on Friday. The government acknowledged fighting was underway.

Rebel spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel said opposition forces wanted to regain the town of Pagak, which was captured by government forces on August 7.

Dickson Gatluak Jock, a spokesman for the forces of South Sudan's First Vice President Taban Deng Gai, also said they were engaged in fighting.

"At 5:00 am, SPLA-IO [Juba faction] forces came under heavy fire in Pagak ... Their main aim was to drive out our forces from the strategic town of Pagak," he said.

Gabriel said, "The government took Pagak from us six days ago. We decided to launch an attack on them because Pagak is our base. They took it from us, and we want to take it back."

"We cannot say right now that we are in full control, but we are going towards taking control."

South Sudan descended into civil war in 2013, only two years after independence, when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy, Riek Machar, unleashing a conflict that has since splintered along multiple ethnic lines.

Machar has been under house arrest in South Africa since December under an attempt by regional leaders to bring about an end to the conflict.

Source: Reuters