Five Ugandans are among the 15 passengers who were shot dead on Thursday in an ambush by unknown gunmen on a civilian convoy on the fragile Nimule-Juba Highway in South Sudan, according to Ugandan security officials.
South Sudan’s rebels allied to sacked First Vice President Riek Macha’s SPLA-IO faction say they carried out this ambush on a convoy of government and military vehicles along the Juba-Nimule.
About 35 passengers sustained severe injuries in the ambush at Moli village, about 140 kilometres from Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
However, according to SPLA-IO deputy military spokesman Paul Gabriel Lam, over 30 were killed.
“Yes, we carried out an attack yesterday [Thursday]. We ambushed four government vehicles and senior officials were killed, and we know that civilians also died but it was a result of crossfire, so it was not done intentionally,” Lam is quoted by local media as saying.
Gabriel said its fighters killed 40 people, including at least two colonels, in an attack that included the use of rocket-propelled grenades.
But South Sudanese police spokesman Daniel Justin Boulogne said 14 people had been killed, without giving details of whether they were soldiers, civilians or both.
Aswa Regional Police Spokesperson Jimmy Patrick Okema on Friday confirmed the death of Ugandans in an interview with Daily Monitor.
Mr Okema identified the deceased as John Nigo, 73, Charles Yeka 74, Rev Yona Mboro 74, John Paru Loja, 28 and James Aliker 34; all residents of Koboko District in northern Uganda.
He said the deceased were travelling to Juba for a wedding in a Toyota Premeo car Reg. No. SSD 393D.
Mr Okema said bodies would be handed to relatives in Nimule town on Friday.
Two South Sudan soldiers were also killed.
The civilian convoy that was targeted comprised buses and other vehicles was being escorted by members of a joint South Sudan army and police force that guards convoys travelling to unsafe regions.
Two Toyota Land Cruisers vehicles belonging to the National Intelligent Security Agency were burnt by the attackers.
The Thursday ambush was the second this week on Nimule-Juba Highway after an attack on Monday that left one person dead and four injured.
Lt Hassan Kato, the Fourth Infantry Division Spokesperson said intelligence they have intelligence report that indicates that the attack could have been carried by members of Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition [SPLA-IO] who are opposed to the Juba government.
Lt Kato said security on the Nimule-Juba Highway has been volatile since the outbreak of war between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Dr Riek Machar in Juba in July last year.