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South Sudan’s top leaders call for calm after deadly clashes in Juba

July 7, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, and First Vice President, Riek Machar, have called on their military commanders in the national capital, Juba, to desist from escalating fighting in the capital.

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First Vice-President Riek Machar (L) and President Salva Kiir (R) listen to the national anthem following a ceremony during which Machar was sworn in on April 26, 2016. (Phot AFP/Samir Bol)

Media official of the opposition faction said the two leaders spoke on the phone shortly after the Thursday clashes and vowed to restrain their respective forces.

“The two Commanders-in-Chief, President Salva Kiir of SPLA and First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar of SPLA (IO) have agreed to order their army Generals not to escalate the situation,” Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, revealed to Sudan Tribune on Thursday evening.

“The two leaders spoke on the phone at around 8:50 pm shortly after the clashes,” he added.

He said calm had returned to the city and there were no more clashes during the night.

ACCUSATIONS

The two rival forces accused each other over who was responsible for the fighting which left at least four soldiers dead and three others wounded.

While the spokesperson of the SPLA forces loyal to President Kiir blamed the SPLA-IO for the confrontation, the SPLA-IO narrated how the clashes started, squarely blaming it on the SPLA.

“SPLA IO Responsible for Juba Clashes,” said Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, in a short message he posted on his Facebook page on Thursday evening after the clashes.

Koang did not elaborate on how the fighting started.

However, the SPLA-IO on the other side in an explanation claimed the SPLA started the fighting by attacking their soldiers travelling in a vehicle.

James Gatdet Dak said their soldiers who took food to their colleagues who have been guarding the office of the First Vice President at night in the town were attacked at 8:00 pm by SPLA forces on Gudele road while travelling in a vehicle on their way back to Jebel Kujur base.

He said the clashes started when their service vehicle was stopped by SPLA forces near Lou Clinic junction, adding that when the SPLA-IO soldiers asked the SPLA troops deployed on the road to release the vehicle, the SPLA officer in charge instead ordered his troops to arrest all the SPLA-IO soldiers.

“As the SPLA (IO) soldiers tried to withdraw to their vehicle in resisting the arrest, then the SPLA forces fired on them. This is how the clashes started,” Dak further said.

At least four of the SPLA soldiers were killed, one wounded. Two SPLA-IO soldiers were wounded.

U.S. EMBASSY CAR ATTACKED

In another incident on Thursday night at around 9:00 pm, a U.S. embassy bullet proof car with 7 diplomats travelling inside was attacked, sprayed with 50 rounds of bullets by suspected SPLA soldiers.

Officials said the incident occurred in the SPLA controlled residential area near the U.S. embassy in the town center, near the government headquarters.

The diplomats all survived as the car is armoured. No statement yet released by the U.S. embassy in Juba about the incident.

(ST)

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