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S.Sudan clashes kill over 150 soldiers
July 10, 2016
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JUBA: More than 150 soldiers died in fighting between South Sudan’s army and former rebels in the capital Juba on Friday evening, a spokesman for the former rebels said.

“The number of casualties is over 150 killed,” said Roman Nyarji, a spokesman for rebel leader turned Vice President Riek Machar, adding the combined death toll may rise further.

“We are expecting a bigger number of casualties because the two units of the presidential guard were all engaged yesterday,” he said referring to bodyguard units of Machar and his rival President Salva Kiir.

The violence came on the eve of the country’s fifth anniversary of independence.

The shooting began when Kiir and Machar met at the presidential palace and initially involved their bodyguards.

The shoot-out, lasting about half an hour, quickly escalated from small-arms fire to heavier weapons and spread with machine-gun and artillery heard in several parts of Juba before subsiding after nightfall.

Kiir and Machar described Friday’s violence as “unfortunate.”

The leaders said they did not know what had triggered the latest fighting between their factions and called for calm.

“Government leaders are attempting to restore calm. However, these actions are not yet successful. Large numbers of troops remain on the streets,” the US Embassy in Juba said on its Facebook page.

One death inside the UN base was reported, spokeswoman Shantal Persaud said, and at least 1,000 civilians had crowded into the UN staff housing and office areas seeking shelter.

Most of the diplomatic corps in Juba has taken shelter at the European Union (EU) compound on Friday night, while the UN head of mission was at the US Embassy, Persaud said.

Armored escorts meant to extract her from the embassy on Saturday were prevented by checkpoints from bringing her back to one of the two UN bases, she said.

By Saturday morning a tense calm had fallen over the city with a heavy security presence but few civilians on the streets.

South Sudan’s defense minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, called the situation on Saturday relatively calm and spoke to the UN mission about running patrols in the city’s streets “so that they see the security situation,” the UN mission tweeted.

“It seems as though things have certainly calmed from what they were last night. However, the situation is still very, very tense,” said Jeremiah Young, an aid worker with World Vision.

Young said there was a chance the security situation could “deteriorate very quickly due to the tensions within Juba and the surrounding areas.”

William Gatjiath Deng, spokesman for Machar’s military faction, said the fighting had occurred near the state house and in army barracks.

“In the morning we collected and counted 35 (dead) from the SPLM-IO (Machar’s faction) and 80 people from the government forces,” he said.

Deng said the death toll could rise on Machar’s side “because there are some soldiers seriously wounded.”

The government side had no immediate comment on the situation in Juba.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday the latest violence highlighted a lack of commitment to the peace process and urged the country’s leaders to end the fighting, discipline military leaders and work together to implement the peace deal.

Soldiers have brought scores of bodies to a hospital in Juba on Friday evening, a doctor at the hospital said on Saturday, as panicked residents worried of a return to civil war.

The doctor said a total count of the dead was not available because soldiers were not allowing doctors to examine the bodies, but he said the morgue was full at Juba Teaching Hospital. Another doctor there estimated 110 bodies, both soldiers and civilians.

It was the first word of deaths from Friday’s violence.

The majority of the bodies were of soldiers, the first doctor said. Both insisted on speaking on condition of anonymity.


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