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Heavy gunfire heard in South Sudan capital

16 December 2013, 10:53

Juba - Sporadic gunfire rang out early Monday in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in what appeared to be clashes between sections of the country's military.

An Associated Press reporter saw heavily armed soldiers patrolling the streets of Juba early Monday amid sporadic gunfire emerging from Juba's main army barracks.

It was not possible to get a comment from official government or military spokespeople because of the poor telephone network.

There has been political tension in the world's youngest nation since South Sudan President Salva Kir sacked Riek Machar as his deputy in July.

Machar, who has expressed a willingness to contest the presidency in 2015, said after his sacking that if the country is to be united it cannot tolerate a "one man's rule or it cannot tolerate dictatorship." His outser, part of a wider dismissal of the entire Cabinet by Kiir, had followed reports of a power struggle within the ruling party.

The local Sudan Tribune newspaper reported on its website that clashes erupted late Sunday between members of the presidential guard in fighting that seemed to pit soldiers from Kiira's Dinka tribe against those from the Nuer tribe of Machar.

In a message to American citizens Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Juba said it had received "reports from multiple reliable sources of ongoing security incidents and sporadic gunfire in multiple locations" across Juba.

"The U.S. Embassy has not been able to confirm that gunfire and insecurity have fully ceased," the message said. "The embassy recommends that all U.S. citizens 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."

Hilde Johnson, special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for South Sudan, said in a statement that the U.N. mission in Juba was "deeply concerned" over the fighting that broke out late Sunday and which continued Monday.

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

- AP


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