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NAIROBI (Reuters) - Fighting between two different rebel groups broke out on Sunday in South Sudan's southern Equatoria region, a rebel official said, adding another dangerous dimension to an increasingly fragmented conflict that has spawned many armed factions.
The incident on Sunday in Nyori in Central Equatoria state was between rebel leader Riek Machar's SPLA-IO fighters and the National Salvation Front (NAS), a nascent rebel group led by General Thomas Cirillo, who formed his own faction after leaving the government in February, vowing to overthrow President Salva Kiir.
South Sudan's war has largely been fought between forces of President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer. The fighting has often been along ethnic lines.
SPLA-IO spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told Reuters by phone that Cirillo's forces attacked an SPLA-IO reconnaissance team travelling near the base of NAS general John Kenyi Loburon, but were repulsed.
Loburon is a leading general in Central Equatoria who has battled Kiir's forces for years, but on Friday he defected from Machar's side to join NAS.
"The team went inside his base, and we cleared him, and we flushed him out of his base, and he is on the run at the moment," Gabriel said of Loburon.
Gabriel said two of Loburon's soldiers were wounded and 30 surrendered.
The clash at Nyori is the first confirmed fight involving the National Salvation Front.
Loburon is the latest of numerous SPLA-IO generals to defect to NAS, with many complaining of lack of logistical support from Machar and favouritism of ethnic Nuer fighters.
NAS spokesman Warille Benjamin Warille declined to comment.
Since December 2013, tens of thousands of people have died in South Sudan's war and up to a quarter of the population has been displaced from their homes, including nearly a million people fleeing to Uganda and Congo in the last year to escape the fighting in Equatoria.
(Editing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Keith Weir)