PRAETORIA, 17 December. /ITAR-TASS/. A firefight has broken out Monday night in Juba, capital of South Sudan. Prior to the attack, the country’s authorities have announcement that they have thwarted an attempted coup. African mass media report that firefights were breaking out sporadically; heavy weaponry was used on several occasions. Eye witnesses report that gunfire was concentrated in the area housing military barracks, located several kilometers from downtown Juba. Frightened citizens have barricaded themselves in their homes.
Sunday night a firefight broke out at the quarters of the presidential guard. The skirmish has then expanded to other districts and continued through the night. Machineguns and RPGs were used during the fight. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit have called this an attempted coup, organized by former Vice President Riek Machar Teny, who was dismissed this July. President Kiir said that a group of servicemen, supporting Machar, have attacked headquarters of the Sudan People's Liberation Army. “Their attacks persisted until morning. However, I would like to announce, that from the very beginning the government completely controls the security situation in Juba,” he said, adding that “Assailants have fled, and we are in pursuit.”
South Sudanese Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said that at least 12 people perished in the skirmish. Following the assault, on Monday the president has announced a curfew in Juba from 6pm to 6am.
It was later reported by the country’s Ministry of Health that the violent clashes have claimed the lives of 26 people. Over 140 were injured.
The situation remains uncertain; location of former vice president Machar is unknown.
South Sudan has declared independence from Sudan in July, 2011, after the majority of the local population have voted for it during the referendum. The political situation rapidly escalated in July, when Kiir has dissolved the Cabinet and dismissed his vice president and political opponent Machar, who announced his plans to run for presidency in 2015.
Observers believe these actions may provoke escalation of tension in the region, not ruling out possibility of a civil war between the peoples of South Sudan, the most populous being Dinka and Nuer.