(AP) Foreign Minister: Attempted coup in South Sudan
By TOM ODULA
A South Sudanese official says a group of disgruntled soldiers and politicians led by a former vice president have attempted to overthrow the government.
South Sudanese Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said Monday some troops within the main army base raided the weapons store and were repulsed. Benjamin says casualties from fighting Monday morning are still unknown.
He says some politicians have been arrested but could not confirm if former Vice President Riek Machar, who he said led the attempt, was among them.
The president has ordered a dawn to dusk curfew. Tension has been mounting in the world’s youngest nation since South Sudan President Salva Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in July. Machar has expressed a willingness to contest the presidency in 2015.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Sporadic gunfire rang out early Monday in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in what a senior military official said were clashes between factions of the country’s military.
Some military installations in Juba had come under attack from armed soldiers who have since been repulsed, said Col. Philip Aguer, the South Sudan military spokesman. He offered no more details, saying an investigation was under way and that the situation was tense but not likely to deteriorate.
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. The streets were largely empty of civilians, with most Juba residents staying indoors. EgyptAir reported that it had cancelled its flight to Juba on Monday, saying the airport there was closed.
Official government sources could not immediately be reached, and the telephone network seemed to be experiencing problems Monday.
There has been political tension in the world’s youngest nation since South Sudan President Salva Kiir fired Riek Machar as his deputy in July.
Machar, who has expressed a willingness to contest the presidency in 2015, said after he was fired that if the country is to be united it cannot tolerate a “one man’s rule or it cannot tolerate dictatorship.” His ouster, part of a wider dismissal of the entire Cabinet by Kiir, had followed reports of a power struggle within the ruling party.
At the time, the United States and the European Union urged calm amid fears the dismissals could spark political upheaval in the country.
While Kiir is leader of the ruling SPLM party, many of the dismissed ministers, including Machar, were key figures in the rebel movement that fought a decades-long war against Sudan that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011.
The local Sudan Tribune newspaper reported on its website that military clashes erupted late Sunday between members of the presidential guard in fighting that seemed to pit soldiers from Kiir’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.
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.
South Sudan has experienced bouts of ethnic violence, especially in rural Jonglei state, since the country peacefully broke away from Sudan after a brutal civil war.
Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda. Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.