ADDIS ABABA, April 15 (Reuters) - South Sudanese rebels said on Tuesday they have seized the capital of oil-producing Unity state, Bentiu, and warned oil firms to pack up and leave within a week.
Thousands of people have been killed and more than one million displaced since fighting erupted in South Sudan in the middle of December, triggered by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar.
"The recapturing of Bentiu marks the first phase of liberation of oil fields from (the) anti-democratic and genocidal forces of Kiir," rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said in a statement.
Urging all oil firms operating in government-held areas to shut their operations and evacuate their staff within a week, he said, "Failure to comply with this request, the oil companies risk forced oil shutdown and the safety of their staff."
An oil ministry official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that three Russian oil workers were injured in a rebel attack at a newly built refinery facility in Bentiu yesterday.
Army spokesman Phillip Aguer said there was fighting in Unity state but he did not have a full report on what had happened.
"There has been serious fighting in Unity today, so far the SPLA (government) forces are still on the ground but we are still waiting for a full report to tell us exactly what has happened," Aguer said.
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