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Scores killed as South Sudan battles rebels

JUBA, South Sudan -- A battle between South Sudan soldiers and rebels allegedly backed by neighboring Sudan killed 163 people, most of them rebels, officials said yesterday.

South Sudan's military spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, said government forces also captured an airstrip in the town of Okello, which he claimed the rebels have been using to import most of their military supplies. Okello is in South Sudan's southeast Pibor County, where rebel leader David Yau Yau is from.

"This airstrip has been used by Khartoum [Sudan] intelligence to transport and supply arms and ammunition to David Yau Yau. Some of the arms that were being dropped by Antanovs [planes] were captured, AK-47s. Some are broken, some are in good condition," Aguer said.

He said 143 rebels led by Yau Yau died in the battle Tuesday, and that 20 soldiers were killed and 70 wounded.

South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011 but is still dealing with violence inside its own borders. Military battles and tribal fights kill dozens of people with alarming frequency. After decades of war with Sudan, the country is flooded with assault rifles.

Death tolls are almost impossible to verify, given how remote the country is and with a complete lack of infrastructure. In late December 2011 and early January 2012, cattle raids between tribes killed 600 people in Jonglei. A government disarmament campaign collected more than 10,000 weapons. -- AP

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