March 5, 2014 (JUBA) – Heavy fighting erupted on Wednesday morning in the South Sudan capital, Juba, as sounds of gunfire and heavy artillery sparked panic among residents, with many fleeing their work places.
- Thick smoke rises above Gieda military barracks in Juba, March 5, 2014 (Matata Safi via facebook)
The fighting started at about 9am (local time) at a military barracks, locally known as Geida, the same place where violence erupted on 15 December between soldiers loyal to president Salva Kiir and those supporting former vice-president Riek Machar.
South Sudan’s ministry of information confirmed the fighting was related to a pay dispute among soldiers in the South Sudan army (SPLA).
Thick smoke could be seen billowing over the barracks, located south-east of Juba, as uncontrolled gunfire continued from the military facility for most of the morning.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune by phone, Brig. Gen. Malaak Ayuen, SPLA director of information and communications, downplayed the incident.
“It was something between the commando unit. I want our people to go ahead with their normal lives,” he said
“It was a disagreement between few individuals,” he added.
Ayuen said the fighting is limited to the barracks that hosts the presidential unit, adding that a number of people had been arrested in connection to the incident.
The minister for the presidency, in a statement seen by Sudan Tribune, said a misunderstanding arose among soldiers who had convened to receive their salaries at the military barracks creating "little confusion".
"It was not a rebellion or anything of that nature. There is no heavy gun fire in Juba at all, the problem has already been resolved, everything now is under control and the situation at the army barracks is back to normal," assured Awan Guol Riak.
Earlier on, however, military sources told Sudan Tribune that the clashes involved the presidential guards, known as the Tiger and Commando units, at the barracks.
The clashes are the heaviest since the mid-December violence, eyewitnesses say.
The fighting was still continuing at 10am, with sounds of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and heavy artilleries shaking the city.
An eyewitness said he saw dozens of injured soldiers being rushed to Juba teaching hospital. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that a number of soldiers died in the clashes.
“The military are now patrolling the city and have set up road blocks on major highways,” said the eye witness, citing roads leading to the airport and the military headquarters.