A military spokesman in South Sudan says government troops have retaken the capital of an oil-producing state from rebels loyal to the country's former vice president.

Col. Philip Aguer said Friday that government troops retook Bentiu after a 2.5-hour battle. Bentiu is the capital of Unity state.

Aguer said the forces loyal to Riek Machar had "destroyed" the town. He said rebels looted the bank, stole food and set the market on fire.

The loss of Bentiu is a blow to Machar at the negotiating table in Ethiopia, where mediators are trying to defuse a political conflict that broke out Dec. 15 and descended into ethnic attacks and military battles.

Rebels still control Bor, a state capital outside Juba, the country capital. Aguer said troops will soon retake Bor.