A South Sudanese rebel group has said it has captured two Indian oil engineers whom it claimed were working with the government.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) said it captured the engineers, identified as Ambross Edward and Muggy Vijaya Boopathy, from a new oilfield in Guelguk North in Upper Nile after fierce fighting between rebel and government forces, according to South Sudan News Agency.
SPLA-IO spokesman William Gatjiath Deng said in a statement the Indians “refused to respect repeated warnings from the military command of the armed opposition”. He claimed the engineers were working for the South Sudan government led by President Salva Kiir Mayardit and were captured on March 9.
Deng said on Saturday the two Indians will be held until a decision is made on their fate by opposition leader Riek Machar, who is in exile in South Africa.
Another opposition spokesman, Mabior Garang, said ransom or other demands are unlikely because they would be “would be inconsistent with our objectives”.
The Indian Embassy in South Sudan had no immediate comment.
The rebel group also said that its forces “disintegrated, defeated, and killed” at least 33 government soldiers in the fighting and took control of the area.
Deng said foreign oil workers should “think before they set foot in any oil production site” and that “oil companies (should) value the lives of their employees”.
Last week, the rebels had warned foreign workers to stop risking their lives in oil production sites. The rebels have also said they want to stop oil production till a peaceful solution is reached with the government.
The new oilfield in Guelguk North, located near the border with Sudan, is one of the main oil production areas and a source of revenue for the South Sudan government.
The East African country has been devastated by three years of civil war.