Renegade ambush kills 20 south Sudan soldiers - army

Tue Dec 21, 2010 2:14pm GMT

JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - Forces loyal to a renegade south Sudanese general ambushed government troops, killing 20 soldiers and injuring 50, the southern army said Tuesday.

General George Athor rebelled after losing elections in April for the governorship of the oil-producing south's Jonglei state, raising tensions ahead of a referendum on southern independence which is due to take place next month.

South Sudan's leader Salva Kiir offered a pardon to Athor in October and both sides had agreed to keep out of each other's way until negotiations were concluded.

"George Athor's forces laid an ambush for an SPLA (southern army) company in Pigi county in Jonglei state," said southern army spokesman Philip Aguer.

"There were 20 SPLA soldiers who were killed in the clash and more than 50 were wounded." Aguer said he did not know what provoked the attack Saturday.

"You would have to ask George Athor himself. It is a very, very strange thing to do," he said.

"This happened in the middle of talks with George Athor. But this incident will be treated separately and amnesty negotiations will continue."

Athor did not answer calls to his satellite phone. The Sudan Tribune website earlier quoted Athor saying the army attacked his positions twice over the weekend.

Aguer said he did not know if any of Athor's men had died and details of the clash were still emerging from the remote area. He earlier said at least 14 people died.   Continued...

<p>South Sudan's President Salva Kiir shows his inked finger as he arrives at a polling station in Juba, south Sudan, April 11, 2010. Sudan holds historic multi-party elections on Sunday that have been marred already by fraud allegations and will test the fragile unity of a nation divided by decades of civil conflict. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic</p>
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