Egypt’s air force has dropped bombs on the positions of South Sudan’s opposition movement near the northern village of Kaka, the opposition’s armed wing has claimed.
In a statement on Saturday, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition, also known as the SPLA-IO, accused the Egyptian air force of dropping “more than nine bombs” on their positions the previous day.
The SPLA-IO is the armed wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO), which is led by former Vice President Riek Machar.
Machar and his followers have been fighting government forces under the leadership of President Salva Kiir for more than three years now.
South Sudan’s conflict began in 2013 after Kiir and Machar, who hail from rival tribes, disagreed on a number of political issues. A peace agreement convinced Machar to return to the capital, Juba, but fighting broke out again in July 2016 after tensions escalated in the world’s youngest nation.
The Saturday statement condemned the alleged attacks by the Egyptian air force and warned that the move could spark a “regional war.”
The statement claimed that Egypt was involved in the conflict in South Sudan, which indicated “that the Juba regime is provoking the region.”
Cairo meeting in January irked South Sudan opposition
The opposition in South Sudan had previously accused Egypt of using its influence on the government in Juba to advance its regional objectives.
Kiir met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on January 10, with reports saying the Egyptian side was seeking closer cooperation from Juba on sensitive regional issues, especially a dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia, a South Sudan neighbor, on how to manage the water of the Nile River.
Sources in Machar’s camp said Cairo had been keen to have South Sudan and Uganda as allies so that it could “advance its covert sabotage campaign” against Ethiopia’s construction of a dam on the Nile.
Egypt’s alleged air force attacks on Friday came after rebels made gains against government forces in several areas this week, the statement added.
Rebels managed to kill many troops and capture at least nine during clashes that erupted in three locations in Unity state, the statement said, accusing President Kiir of seeking to escalate the war through the Egyptian involvement.
Officials in Cairo denied the claims, saying Egypt was totally against any form of military intervention in other countries.
“Egypt does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said.
Sources in Juba also dismissed the statement by rebels, with presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny describing the allegations as “nonsense.”
“Those small packets of rebels are … operating inside our population and we cannot bomb our own population,” Ateny said.
By Africafrique and agencies