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South Sudan rebels claim attacks as cease-fire deadline looms

JUBA--South Sudanese rebels accused the army of attacking their positions Friday hours before a cease-fire deal agreed by the government and rebels comes into effect.

Rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said “simultaneous attacks have been launched” by the army on rebel positions in the northern oil state of Unity, and in the volatile eastern Jonglei region.

But army spokesman Philip Aguer said he had “no reports of fighting,” and that clashes in Jonglei had taken place before the deal was signed, when rebels attacked government forces.

Government and rebels pledged on Thursday to halt fighting within 24 hours and end five weeks of bitter conflict that has left thousands dead, but both sides have said they doubt the other can fully control the forces on the ground.

The cease-fire was due to go into effect at around 1730 GMT.

Koang alleged that South Sudanese government troops — as well as Ugandan soldiers and rebels from neighboring Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) — had attacked rebel positions, warning that rebel fighters had the “right to defend themselves against this senseless aggression.”

The cease-fire agreement was signed late Thursday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa by representatives of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and rebel delegates loyal to ousted vice president Riek Machar, and was greeted by cheers from regional peace brokers and diplomats.

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