KAMPALA (Reuters) - Armed civilians briefly abducted a South Sudanese rebel spokesman in Uganda and told him to stop talking to the media, two rebel officials said on Saturday.
Rebel spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel accused South Sudan’s government of being behind his abduction, but said the group of six armed men and a woman who took him from his home appeared to be from Uganda, which borders South Sudan.
Gabriel, who said the group had told him to stop talking to the media, said Ugandan police ensured he returned home safely. Another South Sudanese rebel official gave a similar account.
South Sudan, which won independence in 2011, descended into civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir fired his deputy, Riek Machar. After on-off peace talks, sporadic conflict has flared again, with each blaming the other for stoking violence.
Ugandan police confirmed civilians had tried to detain the rebel spokesman, but denied South Sudan’s government was involved. They said police were investigating.
South Sudan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mawien Makol said he had no information on the alleged incident.
Machar, who previously stayed in Ethiopia and Sudan, is under house arrest in South Africa after seeking medical treatment there.
Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet, was deported to South Sudan last year from Kenya, and has been seen in solitary confinement in a prison in Juba. Two other South Sudanese dissidents also disappeared in Kenya earlier this year.
The conflict has forced about four million people to flee their homes. Uganda is hosting more than one million of the South Sudanese refugees.
Additional reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Edmund Blair