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.

 

Bloodshed in Gaza surges amid no truce

Major western powers call for Libya ceasefire

UN warns buying oil from terrorists could lead to sanctions

Syria rebels advance towards Hama military airport

Emirates airline to avoid flying over Iraq

Italian fire-fighting planes to come to Libya rescue

US-Israeli ties sink to new depths over Gaza war

Air Algerie crash black boxes sent to France

Warning of Tripoli catastrophe after huge oil depot blaze

US, UN call for immediate Gaza ceasefire

Egypt army kills 14 jihadists in restive Sinai Peninsula

Calls for temporary Gaza ceasefire fall on deaf ears

Yemen army foils new Qaeda attempt to seize military posts

Investigators need ‘few days’ to probe cause of Algeria plane crash

Tunisia army suffers more losses in open war with terrorism

Jihadists advance amid escalation in Syria anti-regime offensive

Iraq Shiite militia takes bloody revenge against ‘Islamic State’ in Baquba

Fierce clashes kill at least 38 people in Benghazi

Israel resumes devastating military assault on Gaza

Thousands face famine as food security situation worsens in Somalia

Death toll in Gaza climbs as fragile ceasefire reveals destruction

Egypt summons Turkey charge d'affaires for second time in one week

‘Islamic State’ jihadists dynamite Shiite shrine in Mosul

US evacuates embassy staff in Libya over ‘real risk’

Investigators begin 'difficult' probe into Air Algerie plane disaster

Armed men snatch Head of Baghdad Provincial Council

‘Islamic State’ beheads Syrian soldiers in Raqa

Kerry in Paris for talks on long-term Gaza truce

Hezbollah chief speaks out on Gaza

Two rival Islamic states in Syria power struggle

Crete protest against Syria chemicals destruction in Mediterranean

74 killed in IS assault on Syria regime territory

Iran confirms arrest of Washington Post correspondent

Somali 'Shebab commanders' killed in AU offensive

Paris: survivors of Air Algerie jet crash 'unlikely'

Jordan shots down drone near Syria border

Gaza civilian toll spiralling to above 800

UN urges Europe to tackle Mediterranean migrant crisis

From Israel with ‘virus’: Death threat letter reaches Palestinian mission in France

Ordeal of ‘apostasy’ woman ends with departure from Sudan

Another bloody day as Israel targets civilians in UN-run school

‘Islamic State’ launches multiple attacks on Syria army

Attack on Egypt army post bears fingerprints of foreign intelligence

Harassment of Christians escalates in Islamist-run Sudan

Air Algerie plane goes missing over Mali