First Published: 2013-12-16

South Sudan witnesses first ‘attempted coup’ since independence
Salva Kiir says he has defeated coup attempt by political rival following night of fighting in capital Juba.
Middle East Online

One decision can trigger coup

JUBA - South Sudan's president said Monday he had defeated a coup attempt by a political rival following a night of fighting in the capital Juba.

"This was an attempted coup," President Salva Kiir told reporters.

He also said in a statement that the "government is in full control of the security situation in Juba. The attackers fled and your forces are pursuing them."

He also said an overnight curfew would be imposed from 6pm Monday to 6am Tuesday, and then remain in force until further notice.

The president blamed the fighting on "a group of soldiers allied to the former vice president Riek Machar and his group".

Machar leads a dissident group within South Sudan's ruling party -- the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) -- and was sacked as vice-president in July.

Heavy fighting broke out, officials said Monday, amid mounting political tensions in the newly-independent nation.

Diplomats and security sources said the fighting appeared to have erupted in a barracks close to the city centre shortly before midnight and involved the use of heavy machine guns and mortars. The sporadic fighting raged throughout the night before calm was restored on Monday morning.

South Sudan won its independence in 2011 after its people voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to split from the north and form a new nation.

But political tensions have been high in recent weeks, and earlier this month key leaders of the ruling party -- the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) -- made a public challenge to President Salva Kiir and accused him of "dictatorial" behaviour.

SPLA army spokesman Phil Aguer told local radio that troops loyal to the president were "establishing the identity of those who started the shooting."

"The army is in control of the situation... the army is pursuing the attackers," he said.

South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth signalled the president was still in charge.

"The president is going to speak soon. I can't say anything until he speaks," he said.

A diplomat in the city described the situation as "quite confused", but added that relative calm returned to the city at 9:00 am (0600 GMT) with troops posted at major intersections.

Statements from the US and British embassies in Juba urged their nationals to avoid unnecessary movements. The US embassy said there were "reports from multiple reliable sources of ongoing security incidents and sporadic gunfire in multiple locations across Juba".

In a statement, the United Nations said it was "deeply concerned" over the fighting and that it was in contact with South Sudan's leadership.

"As the Special Representative of the Secretary General I urge all parties in the fighting to cease hostilities immediately and exercise restraint," UN Special Representative Hilde Johnson said in a statement.

"I have been in touch regularly with the key leaders, including at the highest levels to call for calm," she added.

A security source said the fighting broke out shortly before midnight Sunday, apparently between rival factions in South Sudan's armed forces, and raged until the early hours of the morning.

Civil aviation and airline sources also said that Juba airport had been shut indefinitely.

Since independence, President Kiir has struggled to stem rampant corruption and quell rebellion and conflict in the grossly impoverished but oil-rich nation, left devastated by decades of war.

The dissident SPLM group is led by powerful politician Riek Machar, a charismatic but controversial leader who fought on both sides of Sudan's brutal 1983-2005 civil war, and who was sacked as vice-president in July.

The dissident group also includes Rebecca Garang, the widow of South Sudan's founding father John Garang. The challenge to Kiir earlier this month made public the bitter divisions within the former rebel movement turned political party.

 

Yemen government returns to Aden with eyes set on Sanaa

Arbil urges PKK to move out of Iraq Kurdistan

Syria army pushes back rebels near Latakia province

ISIS flexes muscles in eastern Libya

Iraq protesters vent anger over poor services

Egypt court postpones verdict on brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri

Immigration surpasses economy as major concern in Europe

Plane crash kills family members of Bin Laden

Erdogan calls for early elections if no coalition

Palestinian baby killed in arson attack by Jewish settlers

Kurds in Diyarbakir fear return to war

State of emergency in Tunisia extended

Jerusalem Gay Pride attack suspect lashes out in court

'Kurdish Obama' faces his biggest test

Yemen blockade 'killing' as many civilians as war

EU urges Israel to show 'zero tolerance for settler violence'

Cash-strapped Tunisia's Syphax airline grounds flights

Pentagon denies US-trained rebels captured in Syria

Morocco king calls for development of remote regions

Host of US celebrities endorses Iran nuclear deal

PKK braces for fight with Turkey in Iraq mountain bastions

Kurdish party chief dismisses Turkey anti-IS raids

Thomas Cook warns Tunisia attacks affect annual results

Three Al-Jazeera journalists await Egypt retrial verdict

Kuwait uncovers new IS cell

One Turkish police killed in attack blamed on PKK

Israel approves law allowing force feeding of prisoners

New sexist gaffe of Turkish deputy PM: 'As a woman, be quiet!

UN envoy invites Syrians to ‘thematic’ talks

Egypt's gift to the world: Suez Canal Axis

Pentagon to worried lawmakers: We will remain vigilant on Iran

Hamas calls for revolt against Palestinian Authority

ISIS claims deadly car bomb in Yemen capital

Allies tolerate Turkey's double game to boost IS fight

Somalia ‘making progress’ despite insecurity and election delay

Germany, Iraqi Kurds say Turkey should resume peace process

Syria skeptical about Turkey's intentions in fight against ISIS

Somalia indentifies hotel bomber as former German resident

US gets formal approval to use Incirlik air base in Turkey

Saudi policeman killed, 2 injured in attack

Israel PM approves 300 settler homes in occupied West Bank

Jordan jails 8 for "plotting a terrorist act"

Israel committed war crimes on 'Black Friday'

Israeli strike on Syrian town kills 5 pro-regime fighters

Yemen orders militia to merge with army