Khartoum, Sudan – South Sudan’s army says it has regained a rebel-held northern town, giving the government control of a region where oil production had been halted by fighting.
“When you control Bentiu you control all the oilfields in Unity state,” army spokesman Philip Aguer said.
There was no independent confirmation of the claim.
More than three weeks of fighting have killed more than 1,000 people and driven 230,000 from their homes. The clashes have continued despite stuttering peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia.
South Sudan’s oil production fell by 45,000 barrels per day to 200,000 barrels per day after oilfields in Unity state were shut down due to fighting between rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar and the government of president Salva Kiir.
Upper Nile state is still pumping about 200,000 barrels per day, the government says.
Rebels accused neighbouring Uganda of launching air strikes against their positions, something Kampala has denied in public.
Ugandan troops already patrol Juba’s international airport and guard the presidential palace, at Mr Kiir’s request.
Separately, the United Nations accused both rebels and government forces of obstructing the aid response to the nation’s humanitarian crisis.
Rebels had looted warehouses, commandeered aid agency vehicles and ransacked property in both Bentiu and the town of Bor, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said.
Meanwhile, government authorities had hampered UN flights carrying supplies for peacekeepers and clinics and stopped some peacekeeper patrols, it said.
“These are clear violations of the agreement that regulates the United Nations’ presence in South Sudan and is preventing UNMISS from implementing its mandate,” mission chief Hilde Johnson said in a statement.