Rebels attacked the South Sudanese town of Yei, killing at least four government soldiers, the state governor said.
Rebel forces in the country’s three-year-old civil war said the death count was higher and told civilians to leave the south-west town close to the border with Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“What the rebels are doing here is destruction and creating a situation where civilians suffer,” David Lokonga Moses, governor of surrounding Yei River State, told Reuters.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan in 2011 then plunged into civil war two years later after President Salva Kiir, from the Dinka ethnic group, sacked his deputy and long-time rival Riek Machar, a Nuer.
Fighting spread across the nation often along ethnic lines forcing more than three million people to flee. Britain has said parts of the violence amount to genocide.
Lokonga said the rebel attack on the town south-west of Juba, killed four and wounded six soldiers.
Rebel spokesman, Lam Paul Gabriel, said it was unlikely the government side had lost only four: “It is too early … when did they count them?”
Seven of his side’s fighters were missing, though it was unclear whether they were dead, captured or lost in the bush, he added.
“Civilians in Yei are being warned to vacate town to avoid atrocities from government militias. The government is regrouping to retaliate,” he said.