Rebels in South Sudan have recaptured the key town of Bor after fierce fighting with government forces.
The rebels as well as the UN have confirmed that the capital of Jonglei state, which lies 200km north of Juba, was retaken by the rebels on Tuesday.
“Bor is under our control … we are now in Bor town,” rebel spokesman Moses Ruai said.
The rebels have been battling their way to the centre of the strategically important town starting at dawn of Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow.
Our correspondent said the recapture of Bor now puts more pressure on the government to negotiate with the rebels loyal to Riek Machar.
Between 80,000 to 100,000 have been forced to flee their homes following the latest assault of Bor, Adow said.
Only last week, government troops captured Bor from the rebel forces after over two weeks of fighting.
In recent days thousands have fled Bor fearing an impending counterattack by rebels.
It was not immediately clear who was fighting in Bor, and whether it involved mutinous soldiers, who first seized the town and held it for a week before being driven out, or a loose militia force reported to have been marching on the town for days.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Edward Thomas, an Africa analyst, said Bor could give the rebels a strategic territorial base that they could use in negotiations with the government of President Salva Kiir.
“Bor is the capital of Jonglei state, which is for a long time, being one of the most mutinous periphery of Sudan and South Sudan,” Thomas said. “It’s a place where civil wars in the past have started, and it’s a place with a tragic and painful history of massacres.”
As this developed, the South Sudanese government said on Tuesday they will send a delegation to Ethiopia for peace talks and the Ethiopian government said rebel leader Riek Machar would also send a team to the talks in its capital, Addis Ababa.
“We are going there,” South Sudan Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told Reuters.
Benjamin also said President Kiir will not share power with Machar because he had launched a coup against the country’s leader.
On Tuesday the African Union threatened targeted sanctions against those inciting the violence in South Sudan and hampering international efforts to negotiate an end to the two-week outburst of fighting that risks drawing in the wider region.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Monday east African nations had agreed to move in and defeat rebel leader Machar if he rejected a government ceasefire offer.
The violence first erupted on December 15 when fighting broke out among a group of soldiers in the capital, Juba, but quickly spread to more than half the country.
The conflict has left more than 1,000 dead in the past two weeks and displace over 180,000 people.