Heavy gunfire continues in South Sudan capital after coup attempt

2013-12-17 09:25

Juba – Fresh gunfire rang out in South Sudan’s capital early this morning, a day after the president announced he had defeated a coup attempt in the world’s youngest nation, an AFP reporter said.

The gunfire – including the sporadic firing of heavy weapons – resumed in the early hours of today and was still audible at 9am. It appeared to come from a military headquarters, a few kilometres from the centre of town.

The streets of the capital were deserted, with only military vehicles to be seen and civilians barricaded in their homes.

South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro meanwhile reported at least 12 people had died in the fighting, which began shortly before midnight Sunday.

“At least 12 people died in the fighting,” Lomuro told local radio Eye, adding that many of the dead were soldiers.

Other local radio stations in the capital reported at least 130 wounded had been admitted to hospital.

President Salva Kiir has blamed troops loyal to his arch-rival, former vice president Riek Machar who was sacked from the government in July, for starting the fighting and what he said was a coup attempt.

President Kiir had also said that his troops were “in full control of the security situation in Juba”.

Oil-rich but impoverished South Sudan won its independence in 2011 after its people voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to split from the north and form a new nation.

But the country has struggled with ethnic violence and corruption, and political tensions have worsened in recent weeks between rival factions withing the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Machar leads a dissident group within the SPLM and had been seen as the main challenger to Kiir.

The rivals hail from different ethnic groups and had in the past fought on different sides during Sudan’s civil war.

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