Wednesday, December 21, 2011

South Sudan News Bulletin: George Athor, Jonglei State Dissident, Killed by SPLA Units in Central Equatoria

South Sudan rebels to fight on after chief's death

(AFP) – JUBA — South Sudanese rebels will continue their fight against the newly independent government in Juba despite the killing of their leader George Athor, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

"To me, the mission is alive," James Puot told AFP. "Only one man has died."

South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar announced on Tuesday that Athor was killed when a border patrol clashed with "elements" accompanying him in Morobo County on Monday.

Athor had sneaked back in to South Sudan through neighbouring countries and was on a recruiting drive in Central Equatoria state, Machar said.

South Sudan had accused Athor of acting on behalf of Sudan in a bid to destabilise the country, which won independence in July, five years after the end of a two-decade civil war with Khartoum.

Athor, who fought for the southern rebels and reached the rank of general in their army before turning renegade last year, denied being backed by Khartoum.

South Sudanese citizens rejoiced at Athor's killing and said it should herald a more peaceful environment for the impoverished nation.

But Puot said someone will be found to take Athor's place.

"Very soon we will nominate a new leader", he said.

Athor rebelled in April 2010 after claiming electoral fraud cheated him out of the governor's post in Jonglei state.

His body was expected to arrive in the capital Juba on Wednesday, South Sudanese military spokesman Philip Aguer said.

20 December 2011
Last updated at 11:26 ET

South Sudan rebel George Athor 'killed'

George Athor took up arms after losing an election for a state governorship

The government of newly-independent South Sudan says prominent rebel leader George Athor has been killed.

Vice-President Riek Machar said Mr Athor was killed in a clash with a border patrol after crossing back in to South Sudan for a recruitment drive.

The reports cannot be independently verified.

The former general launched a rebellion in April 2010. Hundreds have died over the past year as his men clashed with the South Sudanese army.

Correspondents say the revolt has been a significant security threat to the country, which became independent in July.

Mr Athor took up arms prior to the referendum on independence, after failing to win the governorship of Jonglei state.

The south accused him of being used by the north to stir up trouble and derail the vote - charges denied at the time by northern officials.

He signed a ceasefire with the authorities in Juba in January, but fighting broke out again within weeks.

The BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum says the area where Mr Athor was apparently killed, Morobo County in Equatoria state, is a long way from his usual operational territory.

The vice-president's office claimed the rebel leader had been in Rwanda, and had returned to South Sudan by land to recruit more soldiers.

Mr Machar called on Mr Athor's followers to lay down their arms and join "the process of peace and development".

A spokesman for Mr Athor's rebel group told the BBC he had spoken to his leader on Monday, but had not been able to reach him since then. He said it was possible Mr Athor had been in Rwanda for medical treatment, but he had no idea if he had been killed, or what he could have been doing in the area in which he reportedly lost his life.

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