JUBA: Rebels in South Sudan said Sunday they had killed an army general during fighting near the town of Bor, a claim immediately denied by the government.
Rebel spokesman Moses Ruai said the general, Lual Mayok, was killed along with his deputy in an ambush on Friday, and said he was in charge of government troops trying to recapture Bor, capital of Jonglei state and situated 200 kilometres (130 miles) north of the capital Juba.
"Our forces are well organised. They are not just hit and run. The next target is now Juba but I cannot tell you exactly when they will attack Juba, but they are heading there," the rebel spokesman said.
South Sudan's Defence Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk dismissed the claim, saying there was no general of that name in the country's armed forces.
"I have no information of any general killed," he told AFP.
Earlier Sunday, the army's spokesman also said government troops were advancing on Bor, asserting it was a "matter of time" before the town fell back into government hands.
There was no immediate independent confirmation of the conflicting claims, which came as the two sides were set to open formal peace talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The conflict in South Sudan erupted on December 15, pitting army units loyal to President Salva Kiir against a loose alliance of ethnic militia forces and mutinous army commanders nominally headed by Riek Machar, a former vice president who was sacked last July.