Gen. Athor, the former SPLA Deputy Chief of General Staff, turned rebel after losing in April elections, denied any of his loyalists was captured in the recent clash on Wednesday with SPLA forces.
General Kuol Deim Kuol earlier announced that SPLA troops attacked Athor’s forces in the village of Wunlam on Monday night after they were led to their hideout in Khorfulus County by one of Athor’s men captured in an earlier fight. He said a dozen of his soldiers were captured by the Southern army.
“He is running with less than 30 soldiers. They are his close relatives from the [his] village. Our forces are now pursuing him. We expect his capture within days,” said Kuol, adding that the SPLA captured 13 of his men and radio equipment on Monday.
In an interview with Sudan Tribune on Friday, June 18, 2010, General Athor however said; “We do not have any single soldier captured from us and none of our soldiers has surrendered.”
He said those reported to have been captured are civilians accused to have not cooperated with the SPLA forces who were looking for information about our military capabilities.
“Before our forces clashed with them on Wednesday, we had information that SPLA forces were in the area three hours walk from our location gathering military information about us. They were beating and threatening to kill local people who refused to cooperate with [them] in lying about us,” Athor further explained.
Gen. Athor became the first political contender to stage armed protest, accusing the Southern Sudan ruling party SPLM of votes rigging following declaration of Jonglei state’s gubernatorial elections results in favor of his main rival and SPLM official nominee, the incumbent governor Kuol Manyang Juuk.
He earlier claimed to have coordinated the rebellion with the former Police Colonel Gatluak Gai in Unity state and David Yauyau in Pibor County of Jonglei state, adding that he has also been coordinating with some other army senior officers across the region.
The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has been trying to establish contacts with him with the aim to broker a peaceful settlement between his group and the government of Southern Sudan.
Analysts aver that Southern Sudan cannot affoerd such skirmishes and disagreement as they move towards a referendum which pundits say will favour self-rule for the semi-autonomous south.