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National Salvation Rebels Kill Six Presidential Bodyguards in South Sudan

South Sudan's vice president James Wani Igga makes a speech during his visit to the Mangateen Internal Displaced persons center in Juba on Nov. 17, 2018.

The National Salvation Front (NAS) is claiming its forces killed six bodyguards assigned to South Sudan’s Vice President James Wani Igga during an attack at Lo’bonok village nearly 90 kilometers from the capital, Juba.

Igga was not with his bodyguards at the time.

NAS General Thomas Cirilo Swaka on Thursday told South Sudan in Focus that his forces were fighting in self-defense during the Wednesday engagement. He said the presidential bodyguards were spying on NAS forces.

“Everybody knows that the government in Juba under [President] Salva Kiir is the one attacking National Salvation Front. All the organizations, CTSAMM and even UNMISS, they know this,” Swaka said, referring to the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism and the peacekeeping United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

Swaka said the presidential bodyguards were on a reconnaissance mission to map out NAS positions in the Lo’bonok area.

Kalisto Ladu, press secretary in the office of South Sudan’s vice president, told VOA that eight bodyguards assigned to the vice president traveled Wednesday to Lo’bonok and were ambushed.

Ladu said six of the bodyguards were killed in the attack.

Earlier this year, the lay Catholic social service organization, the Community of Sant'Egidio in Rome, moderated talks between the government of South Sudan and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), a group that refused to sign the 2018 peace agreement.

SSOMA and the government of South Sudan signed a Rome peace declaration January 14, 2020, to recommit to the Secession of Hostilities Agreement of December 2017 to avoid confrontation between the signatories and nonsignatories of the South Sudan 2018 peace agreement.

Swaka, the NAS general who is also the chairman of SSOMA, blamed the South Sudan Peoples Defense Forces for reneging on the cessation hostilities agreement signed in Rome. “From March, April, May, June and July, [South Sudan] government forces marched to attack us in our bases around Loka, around Lainya and Wonduruba,” Swakasaid.

He is warning civilians not to cross through areas under NAS control to avoid being caught in confrontations between NAS forces and South Sudan government forces.

“We don’t have satellites to see if a vehicle belongs to a civilian or it belongs to the government,” he said. “What we know is that we are at war, and civilians should stop moving.”

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.