15 December 2013

South Sudan's Presidential Guards Clash in Juba

Photo: Tim McKulka/UN Photo
Soldiers of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) .

Juba — Military clashes have occurred between the presidential guards of South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir in the capital, Juba. The clashes occurred from about 10pm last night in the old military barracks inside the capital and continued intensively for about one hour before one group was expelled.

Sporadic gunfire rocked the new nation's capital over night sending residents into a state of panic as movements were controlled by the military.

The state-owned SSTV is currently off air while Juba airport remains closed. Juba residents also claim they have found it hard to make telephone calls since morning.

Military sources said the clashes between the Tiger special force occurred when one group predominantly of Nuer was suspicious in the deployments of the other group dominated by the Dinka, further turning the arguments into deadly clashes.

The source said the group predominantly of Nuer have expelled their colleagues predominantly of Dinka, composed mostly of those who were recently graduated by president Kiir at Luri bridge and deployed at the old military barracks.

The situation is now calm, but tense amidst fears that it may escalate as soldiers have been deploying in various strategic locations. No casualties have been reported so far.

Eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune that the fighting was fierce as those chased out of the barracks withdrew into the rest of the city.

Army urges calm

The South Sudan's army, meanwhile, warned residents of the capital, Juba, to remain in their homes after gun shoots and explosions were heard overnight.

"We request people to remains in their residences until we establish the actual cause of the shootings", Phillip Aguer, the SPLA's spokesperson told Sudan Tribune.

The army, Aguer said, regrets the unfortunate incident which has left the Juba population in a state of panic, but gave no further details on casualties involved.

UN, US mission concerned

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan expressed deep concerns over the incident that broke out in the country's capital, calling for calm among parties involved.

"As the Special Representative of the Secretary General, I urge all parties in the fighting to cease hostilities immediately and exercise restraint. I have been in touch regularly with the key leaders, including at the highest levels to call for calm," Hilde Johnson said in a statement issued Monday.

UNMISS will continue to monitor events closely and provide updates as developments warrant, she added.

Meanwhile, the United States embassy in Juba advised its citizens in the country to exercise extra caution at all times.

"The U.S. Embassy will continue to closely monitor the security environment in South Sudan, with particular attention to Juba city and its immediate surroundings, and will advise U.S. citizens further if the security situation changes", it said in a statement.

In 2006, a similar incident occurred when part of the military mutinied over unpaid salaries prompting fierce battle between forces loyal to the establishment and the mutineers at a military barracks at Gumbo, a few kilometers out of Juba town.

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