24 Jan, 2017 (Nyamilepedia) — The South Sudanese armed opposition (SPLA-IO) has shot down a government military plane over the weekend killing all on board including the pilots and dozens of senior officers on board who where accompanying the military plane.
The plane was believed to be transporting weapons and ammunitions to Upper Nile’s strategic town of Nasir as war intensifies across the country between the two main opponents in South Sudan conflict.
In a press statement by the armed opposition military spokesman Colonel. William Gatjiath, the plane was brought down on Sunday by the 3rd division of SPLA-IO in Upper Nile under operational command of Major General Tut Riik.
South Sudan’s armed opposition which is originally part of the National Army, broke away after South Sudan’s civil war kicked off in Juba in 2013 between supporters of President Silva Kiir and those supporting the former Vice President Riek Machar.
The rebel group unlike other African rebel groups operates like a full National Army with full divisions allover the vast country led by senior military commanders including the chief of staff and his five deputies who were all senior military officials in South Sudan’s army or in the former Sudan Armed Forces.
They have full zonal and divisional commanders and specialized units, all across the country including a special division based in Upper Nile led by Lt. Gen. Johnson Olony, the oppositions’ 1st division commander.
Current armed opposition chief of genera staff, 1st Lt. Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual is believed to be the most high ranked military officials in the whole of South Sudan on both government and opposition sides before the war broke out.
1st Lt. Gen. Simon Gatwech fought in both the first Sudan civil war(Anyanya one and two) and also fought in the second Sudan civil war of SPLM/SPLA between 1983 to 2005, and he is currently fighting the first South Sudan civil war.
Intense battles last weekend between government and rebel forces saw opposition forces capturing key towns in the key oil state of Upper Nile. The rebels captured the town of Nordeng which is at the outskirts of Nasir, Upper Nile’s second largest town.
A senior official within the opposition military ranks who gave his name as Mach told Nyamilepedia reporter that the armed opposition have recently acquired anti-aircraft air-to-surface missiles, however, he did not say where the weapons have been acquired from.
“….yes the weapons are there now, they brought it, is being for distributed now in the different fronts…yes they (weapons suppliers) came with a helicopters at night, but i don’t know from where…” Mach told the reporter
The armed opposition military spokesperson accused Silva kiir’s forces of continuing to transport weapons and stepping up offensive against their positions across the country contrary to Kiir’s government claims of implementing the peace agreement and wanting a peaceful resolution to the conflict in South Sudan.
The army spokesperson warned that the South Sudanese armed opposition, the SPLM/A-IO, was now capable of brining down any threats to its forces from the air, an indication that the opposition might have received new supplies of anti-aircraft weapons.
“…the gallant SPLA-IO forces in and around Nasir and indeed across South Sudan are now professionally capable of bringing down any threat from the air, defend their territories and protect the innocent civilian population from the ruthlessness of the Juba regime solders..” Col, William said in a statement released to media on Monday.