150+ people killed in fierce clashes in South Sudan
More than 150 soldiers and civilians were killed during tense clashes in South Sudan’s capital on Friday evening between forces loyal to the president and supporters of the first vice president.
The deadly clashes broke out near the presidential palace, where President Salva Kiir and his former rival, First Vice President Riek Machar, were at a meeting, in Juba. A shootout, which lasted half an hour, between the guards of both sides, led to heavy gunfire, which soon spread across the city.
“We are expecting a bigger number of casualties because the two units of the presidential guard were all engaged yesterday,” said Roman Nyarji, a spokesman for Machar, referring to the bodyguard units of both sides.
Gunfire also continued into the late hours of Friday outside a UN base in the capital, which is already home to hundreds of panicked people, fleeing the violence.
The streets of Juba were also charged with tension on Saturday, when the nation was preparing itself to celebrate its fifth anniversary of independence from Sudan.
Thousands of people have been killed and more than two million forced from their homes because of clashes between the rival factions. Machar fled Juba at the start of the civil war in December 2013. In August 2015, however, a peace deal was signed between the rivals and Machar became the first vice president.
Earlier on Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply alarmed” by the ongoing fighting in the country despite the peace deal between the two factions, blaming both sides for their “lack of commitment to the peace process.”