150 Dead as Forces of South Sudan’s President, Vice Clash

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sudan 2Heavy gunfire and artillery bombardment that erupted in Juba, South Sudan capital, between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and First Vice President, Reik Machar since Thursday intensified Sunday morning with over 150 people dead so far.
Ugandan Online Newspaper, ChimpReports, says Sudanese Defence officials claimed the Vice President secretly recruited a commando unit that was holding ground in his base in Jebel.
But officials from the Vice President’s side said forces loyal to the president launched an unprovoked attack on the Vice President, Reik Machar’s base.
Airlines operating in the country have cancelled flights to Juba while President Kiir is calling on diplomats not to leave the country.
Officials of the United Nation’s peace keeping force stationed in Juba said rounds of mortar landed in their compound.
“There is a commando unit at Machar’s base at Jebel. They tried to force their way into the presidential palace at JI on Friday, sparking a fight with presidential guards, leading to the death of over 150 people,” said a high ranking officer who preferred anonymity.
“So, we asked Machar’s people to tell us who these people are. Even Machar’s guards who were stationed at JI during the Friday meeting with President Kiir and Interior Minister could not identify them,” the source added.
Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak said on his Facebook page on Sunday that President Salva Kiir’s forces are bombing Jebel site with helicopter gunships and shelling it with heavy artilleries.
sudan“But our forces have defeated them on the ground and pushed them back from different directions,” said Gatdet.
He further said there was intense fighting at Juba International Airport around 11:30am.
However, South Sudan Foreign Affairs official, Gordon Buay said SPLA did not attack Jebel.
“What happened minutes ago is a clash between the reconnaissance forces of the SPLA-IO and SPLA. It is now contained,” said Buay.
“The movement of SPLA-IO reconnaissance force at 8:00am was misunderstood by the reconnaissance of the SPLA who thought that the IO reconnaissance force was coming to attack them because they did not inform the SPLA forces prior to their move. If the IO reconnaissance informed the SPLA reconnaissance, such a clash could have been avoided.”
But civilians in Juba say fighting started as early as 7:30am and continues to reverberate across the capital.
“Heavy bombardments can be heard from Jebel side,” says Gale Dak, 24, a resident of Juba.
“We are stuck indoors.”
Officials and eye witnesses told Sudan Tribune that a force loyal to President Salva Kiir attacked the opposition’s General Headquarters where their chief of general staff, General Simon Gatwech Dual, is based.
“Our forces have come under heavy attack this morning. President Salva Kiir’s forces launched the attack,” said James Gatdet Dak, press secretary for the First Vice President, Machar.
Jebel site is about 5 kilometers away from the Presidential Palace, or J1, in Juba city center.
Dak said the attacking forces had been repulsed and chased back into the capital center, near the national security service building.
However, he warned that the situation may further escalate if such attacks continued, accusing forces loyal to President Salva Kiir of either not able to control their forces or were intentionally provoking a return to a full scale war.
Officials and eye witnesses told Sudan Tribune forces loyal to President Salva Kiir attacked the opposition’s General Headquarters where their chief of general staff, General Simon Gatwech Dual, is based.
It was not immediately possible to establish the cause of fresh clashes which broken out in between rival forces, resulting in the use of heavy artillery gunfire while military jet fighters hovered the position of armed forces round the checkpoint on Yei-Juba road in Jebel area.
Although the Jebel fighting has subsided, sporadic gunfire continues to be heard, forcing civilians to flee their homes to the United Nations bases in the capital.
UN officials also said that rounds of mortar landed inside the their compound in Juba.
Sound of heavy gunfire was also heard in Gudele area and Thonypiny, a residential area close to airport. Authorities attributed the cause of firing around the airport to a drunkard soldier who fired into the air, forcing other soldiers to fire back in an attempt to control the situation. Eye witnesses said firing at the airport witnessed the use of heavy artillery and RPGs by soldiers firing randomly without orders.
Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny claimed in a statement that the new clashes in Jebel on Sunday morning was the work of radical officers of armed opposition forces but that the government was doing its best to ensure that the general security situation returns to normal within shortest time possible .
The fighting which started on Thursday spread to a cabinet meeting held by the two leaders forcing journalists awaiting a news conference to hide under their desks as gunfire boomed around the presidential palace. The two leaders later addressed the press calling for peace.
The fight is threatening the peace process that united President Kiir and Ist Vice President, Macha,r after two years of fighting.

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