December 17, 2013 (JUBA) - Presidential guard forces raided the house of South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar, in the Amarat district, destroying much of the property, as heavy gunfire resumed in Juba on Tuesday.
- SPLA soldiers in May 2012 (Reuters)
The compound was being protected by Machar’s body guards, but his whereabouts remain unknown.
Heavy gunfire was also heard around the house of the Inspector General of the South Sudan Police Service, Pieng Deng Kuol, where senior officials linked to Sunday night’s alleged coup attempt are being held.
Senior figures from South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) believed to be in Kuol’s house are: former defence minister Majak D’ Agoot, former environment minister Gier Chuang Aluong, former Lakes state governor Chol Tong Mayay, former investment minister General Oyai Deng Ajak, former minister of justice John Luk Jok, former minister of culture Cirino Iteng, and former telecommunications minister Madut Biar Yel.
The whereabouts of former minister of environment Alfred Lado Gore, former SPLM secretary-general Pagan Amum, former Unity state governor Taban Deng and ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth remains unknown.
Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, the widow of late leader John Garang is reported be in her house. Her opposition to president Salva Kiir’s leadership, like the other arrested figures, has grown stronger since a cabinet reshuffle in July and August saw many of them loose their positions.
It is not clear where the government intends to detain the senior SPLM members whom Kiir has accused of carrying out an attempted coup against him on Monday. Many reports contradict the government’s version of events, claiming that tension between the SPLM’s leadership in recent weeks spread to the army, sparking clashes between supporters of Kiir and Machar.
“The house of General Pieng and Riek Machar are now being attacked by the presidential guard forces. They have destroyed the windows of the house in which the detainees are kept. I don’t know what these people want to do. Maybe they want to kill them. They rolled in tanks”, a police source told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
“The house of Riek Machar had already been attacked and the civilians found there have been abused. Everything in the house had been vandalised and looted”, said the official, who did not want to be named but witnessed the attack after responding to calls from residents that the area was under attack.
South Sudan’s interior minister, Aleu Ayeny Aleu, said the development is part of a security operation to clean the area of those suspected to be loyal to Machar.
“Let our population not panic. There is no fighting. Everything is under control as [of] yesterday. It is the security forces combing areas suspecting to [be] hosting these gangs. They are hunted and evicted out so that they are brought to justice”, Aleu told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
Minister Aleu did not comment on why the house of the police inspector general was raided or on the police and army’s (SPLA) operations in the capital since fighting erupted on Sunday night.
Nearly 66 bodies are now in Juba teaching hospital, according to the SPLA medical corps.
“The SPLA is planning a mass burial for the bodies already in the mortuary”, said Brig. Gen. Ajak Bullen.