South Sudan president replaces longtime army leader, who was from same ethnic group as rebels

A South Sudan military spokesman says the president has replaced the military's chief of staff amid massive fighting across the country between the military and rebels.

The firing is significant in part because the former chief of staff, Gen. James Hoth Mai, was an ethnic Nuer, the same group that rebels fighting the military come from. Mai's position was frequently cited as an example of the ethnic diversity of the government led by President Salva Kiir, a Dinka.

Col. Philip Aguer said Thursday that Mai's removal on Wednesday is the second reshuffling of the military since 2005. He said the military implements the decisions of the president.

Aguer reported battles in Jonglei state on Wednesday around the town of Renk, which he said is in the military's control.