Heavy fighting erupted over the weekend around the South Sudanese town of Malakal, killing at least 56 people after rebels said they would try to seize the town, a military spokesman said on Sunday.
Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said the rebels had attacked government positions on Friday but the military held their ground.
“Our forces were able to successfully drive them back with heavy casualties. Over 56 rebels were killed,” he told a group of journalists whom the government had flown to Malakal on Sunday to see the situation.
“We came here … to let the people of South Sudan, and in particular the region, know that Malakal was not captured by the rebels as reported over the weekend.”
On Friday, the rebels said they had captured Lalo and the nearby location of Wajwok, and planned to seize Malakal.
“We want to make sure that the government are dislodged from the town and we take control,” deputy rebel spokesperson Dickson Gatluak told Reuters by phone from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
South Sudan descended into new war in July after forces loyal to former first vice president Riek Machar and those loyal to President Salva Kiir clashed in Juba.
Machar fled the capital following this incident, and is now in South Africa for medical treatment.