S. Sudan Loses Control of Key Oil-Rich City

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Former South Sudanese deputy president Riek Machar said he wants to be the country's next leader, as the government has lost control of Unity state's capital city, Bentiu.

S. Sudan Loses Control of Key Oil-Rich City

Machar's statement on Sunday comes amid fighting which has raged in one of the of the world's youngest countries for more than a week, after President Salva Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Machar denied the allegation and accused Kiir of carrying out a vicious purge of his rivals.

Machar said he wanted to be the next leader of the country - to run for president at the next election in 2015. He called on Kiir to step down.

He said his troops were now in control of Bentiu, the capital city of Unity state where a military government has been established.

South Sudanese military spokesperson, Colonal Philip Aguer, confirmed late on Sunday that the capital city had been lost to a commander loyal to Machar.

"Bentiu is in the hands of a commander who has declared support for Machar,'' he said. "Bentiu is not in our hands."

The fighting has left hundreds dead and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing for protection in UN bases or to safer areas of the country, which only won independence from Sudan in 2011 but has been blighted by ethnic divisions, corruption and poverty.

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