Rebels attacked government forces in Unity State, where oil fields have been abandoned due to fighting.
The clash between rebels loyal to exiled former Deputy President Riek Machar and government forces occurred early Monday in Nhialdiu, a village close to the town of Bentiu which has changed hands repeatedly since civil war began nearly four years ago.
“The number of the bodies that were found on the ground were 25,” said Lam Tungwar, information minister for Northern Liech State, adding the rebel attack was “repulsed.”
Lam Paul Gabriel, a spokesman for the SPLA-IO rebels confirmed the clash claiming “a successful operation” in which “the gallant SPLA-IO forces took control of Nhialdiu,” killed 19 government soldiers and seized dozens of weapons.
Tungwar said most of the dead were civilians.
The government however said it had managed to repulse the rebels and were pursuing them.
Those killed during Monday’s fighting in the town of NhialDiu included women, elderly people and local police officers, Lam Tungwar, state minister of information of Northern Liech state, told Reuters.
Dickson Gatluak Jock, military spokesman for South Sudanese Vice President Taban Deng Gai, said the attack coincided with dialogue in NhialDiu between pro-rebel and pro-government clans aimed at securing peace in the region.
South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after protracted bloodshed, fell into civil war in late 2013 with troops loyal to President Salva Kiir fighting those of the ex-vice president he sacked, Riek Machar.
Tens of thousands have been killed and millions uprooted since then during a conflict characterized by rape, ethnic massacres and attacks on civilians.