South Sudan's army says seizes back oil-producing state's capital

Reuters
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir gestures during a news conference in Juba
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South Sudan's President Salva Kiir gestures during a news conference in Juba December 18, 2013. REUTERS/Goran …

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan's army regained the rebel-held capital of Unity state, Bentiu, on Friday, giving the government control of Unity's oilfields where production had been halted, the military's spokesman said.

South Sudan's oil production fell by 45,000 barrels per day to 200,000 bpd after oilfields in northern Unity state were shut down last month due to fighting.

"It happened this afternoon at 2.30 p.m.," army spokesman Philip Aguer told Reuters, referring to the capture of Bentiu. "When you control Bentiu you control all the oilfields in Unity state."

It was not clear when oil production might resume as foreign companies have evacuated workers. There was no immediate comment from the rebels.

Three weeks of fighting, often along ethnic faultlines, has pitted President Salva Kiir's SPLA government forces against rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar and brought the oil-exporting nation close to civil war. More than a thousand people have been killed in the unrest.

Bentiu had been one of two state capitals held by rebel troops loyal to Machar.

Upper Nile state, which borders Unity and is in government hands, has been pumping about 200,000 bpd throughout the violence.

(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by James Macharia and Susan Fenton)

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