- Vice President Machar’s bodyguards open fire on state forces
- Leadership calls for calm in address on state broadcaster
South Sudan stepped up security patrols in the capital and urged calm after clashes between government forces and fighters loyal to Vice President Riek Machar left at least five soldiers dead, the city’s worst violence since a transitional government was formed to end a civil war.
The shootout, in which two troops were injured, occurred late Thursday when Machar’s bodyguards opened fire on security forces carrying out routine searches of vehicles at a checkpoint in Juba, army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said in a statement. The army is treating the “clashes as an isolated incident that would be investigated by relevant institutions enshrined in the peace agreement,” he said.
The “increased presence of security forces on the streets and around major roundabouts is aimed at enhancing, strengthening and improving the security environment in order for our people to go about their normal business,” Koang said.
Machar, a former vice president turned rebel leader, returned to Juba in late April to resume his government position, part of a deal to end the conflict in the oil-producing nation that began in December 2013 and has left tens of thousands of people dead.
A spokesman for Machar’s side, William Gatjiath Deng, accused government soldiers of provoking its fighters. He said by phone that seven soldiers had been killed and four injured, with two of the former insurgents also wounded.
President Salva Kiir, Machar and second Vice President Wani Igga called for calm during a joint address Friday on the national broadcaster, SSBC, while gunfire could be heard nearby.
The shootings were “very unfortunate” and surprising to the leadership, Machar said. “All we what to tell our public now is that they should remain calm. This incident also will be controlled and measures will be taken so that peace is restored,” he said.