JUBA, March 13 (Xinhua) -- The South Sudanese army (SPLA) said on Monday that it killed 23 rebel fighters during renewed clashes in northern South Sudan over the weekend.
SPLA Spokesman Lul Ruai Koang told Xinhua that fresh fighting in Yuai area in the newly created Bieh state left at least 23 opposition fighters killed.
"On Sunday, hostile forces loyal to Riek Machar attacked our defensive positions at Yuai in Bieh State. Our forces were able to repulse the attack with heavy causalities. 23 rebel fighters were killed and we also captured some weaponry," Koang said.
Koang declined to give casualties figures on the side of the government, saying that "the government troops are paying a price to ensure that civilians are not killed and ensure that strategic grounds are not lost."
He said last week, a senior army officer at the rank of a colonel and four of his body guards were killed in the former Eastern Equatoria state.
South Sudan has been devastated by civil war that broke out in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in April, but was again shattered by fresh violence in July, 2016.
Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with over 2 million displaced and another 4.6 million left severely food insecure, since December 2013.
Last month, the UN declared localized famine in parts of South Sudan, warning that some 100,000 people, nearly half of the population is in dire need of food aid.