March 05, 2014 (JUBA) — Tensions soared in Juba Wednesday as five soldiers were killed and several more injured in clashes at the same military barracks where fighting in December triggered months of conflict around the young country.
Officials said fighting broke out Wednesday morning at the Giada barracks, the headquarters of the South Sudan army’s ground forces.
Residents flee as gunfire erupts
The clashes sent many residents in the area ifleeing and caused panic in parts of Juba, Ayuen and government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth said.
The U.S. embassy in Juba urged residents to “stay inside” as “heavy & continued gunfire” was reported near the university
Hours after the fighting erupted, as black smoke continued to rise from the direction of the army barracks, Ayuen urged residents to “go back to your businesses, go back to your homes and go back to your normal duties.”
“There is no problem. The thing was within the barracks and it has been contained there,” he said.
Ayuen said an unspecified number of soldiers have been arrested in connection with the fighting, but others were still at large. Soldiers involved in the fighting could face a court martial, he said.
Government: Clashes unrelated to ongoing fighting
Makuei insisted that the shooting was not connected to the ongoing conflict between pro- and anti-government forces that was triggered by clashes on Dec.15 at the same barracks.
He said the fighting on Wednesday was “a normal thing that happens in any military area” and had “nothing to do with the rebellion and it nothing to do with the military coup.”
President Salva Kiir has said that the clashes at the barracks in December were part of an abortive coup attempt led by his former deputy, Riek Machar, who has denied the accusations.
The fighting in December spread rapidly from Juba to the rest of the country, and is still ongoing in Jonglei state and the oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile, in spite of a cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed six weeks ago.
Thousands are believed to have been killed in the clashes in South Sudan, and around 900,000 fled their homes, seeking safety in neighboring countries, on United Nations bases in South Sudan, or in the bush.
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