South Sudan army retakes Bor town from rebels: minister

JUBA (AFP) - South Sudan's army stormed the rebel-held town of Bor on Tuesday, sending insurgents fleeing nearly a week after they captured the state capital of Jonglei, Information Minister Michael Makwei told AFP.

"The army captured Bor around sunset and the rebel forces are now on the run... We are back in control," Makwei said.

"This is the gift of the government of South Sudan to the people." However, while claiming the army was now back in full control, the Makwei also said that "shooting continued", without giving further details.

Bor's capture, apparently without major resistance by the rebels, lifts nearly a week-long seige of the town, where some 17,000 civilians fled into the overstretched United Nations peacekeeping compound for protection, severely stretching limited food and supplies.

UN peacekeepers had spent days bolstering fortifications ahead of the army assault.

Fighting has gripped South Sudan for more than a week, after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar, who was fired from the government in July, of attempting a coup.

Machar denied the claim and accused Kiir of carrying out a vicious purge of his rivals.

Vowing to oust Kiir, his forces seized the town of Bor, located just 200km north of Juba, late on Wednesday.

While its recapture is a significant victory for the government, rebel forces still control vast swathes of Jonglei state, and still hold the town of Bentiu, capital of crucial oil-producing Unity state.

Rebels were also reportedly beaten back from the town of Malakal, capital of the oil-rich Upper Nile state.