South Sudan: ‘At least 115 killed’ in outbreak of violence

Gunfire erupts as President Salva Kiir meets first vice-president and ex-rebel chief Riek Machar

South Sudan’s first vice-president Riek Machar (left) delivers a speech to journalists next to  President Salva Kiir (centre) and vice-president James Wani Igga (right) prior to the outbreak of  shooting outside the presidential palace in Juba on July 8th, 2016. Photograph: Charles Atiki Lomodong/AFP/Getty Images

South Sudan’s first vice-president Riek Machar (left) delivers a speech to journalists next to President Salva Kiir (centre) and vice-president James Wani Igga (right) prior to the outbreak of shooting outside the presidential palace in Juba on July 8th, 2016. Photograph: Charles Atiki Lomodong/AFP/Getty Images

 

Soldiers have brought scores of bodies to a hospital in South Sudan’s capital after gunfire erupted throughout Juba, a doctor said.

A total count of the dead was not available, the doctor said, because soldiers were not allowing doctors to examine the bodies, but the morgue was full at Juba Teaching Hospital.

The majority of the bodies were of soldiers, the doctor added.

Separately, a military spokesman for South Sudan’s opposition said on Saturday at least 115 soldiers from the country’s rival factions had been killed in gun battles in Juba after fighting broke out on Friday evening near where the president was meeting a former rival for talks.

Gunfire erupted on Friday outside the presidential compound as President Salva Kiir was meeting first vice-president and former rebel leader Riek Machar. It soon spread through the city.

The former rivals issued a joint call for calm as fears grow in Juba of a return to civil war.

Independence anniversary

Residents were reporting quiet streets on Saturday morning, on what is South Sudan’s fifth anniversary of independence. Many people remained indoors.

Gunfire had continued into the night outside a UN base in Juba sheltering more than 25,000 people.

Budbud Chol, who oversees security at a clinic inside the base, said they had received about 40 people wounded by gunfire, all but three of them men.

“They are still coming up to now. All of them are gunshot,” Mr Chol said.

He said many of the wounded were hit in crossfire outside the UN base. One woman was hit by a stray bullet inside the base, Mr Chol said.

The latest violence began on Thursday night with shooting between opposing army factions who are supposed to be carrying out joint patrols under a fragile peace deal reached last year.

That shooting, which killed five soldiers, was similar to the skirmish between soldiers in Juba in December 2013 that led to the civil war in which tens of thousands of people were killed.

Britain advised its nationals on Saturday to leave South Sudan if they could do so safely, and said it was removing non-essential embassy staff due to the latest violence.

“Embassy staff have been on lock-down and we are reducing to only essential staff in the country,” the foreign ministry said on its travel advice website.

“If you have no pressing need to remain, you should consider leaving by commercial means, if it is safe to do so. If safe passage to the airport is not available then we advise all British nationals in Juba to remain inside,” it added.

Agencies