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.


Russia airstrikes target ISIS infrastructure facilities in Syria

Israeli fire wounds at least 10 Palestinians in West Bank

Erdogan faces tough talks in meeting with EU leaders

UAE holds election for advisory council

First hajj stampede bodies arrive in Iran from Saudi Arabia

Erdogan urges Putin to reconsider air campaign in Syria

Iran expels Bahrain envoy in apparent retaliation

US urges Libya rivals to move forward with peace deal

Powers condemn targeting of Syrian opposition by Russia

Turkey accuses Russia of hitting Syria rebels to bolster Assad

Palestinians kill Israeli couple in West Bank shooting

Russia again strikes Assad regime's foes

Iran backs Russian military strategy in Syria

S&P: Gulf banks' net earnings set to slide

Russia confirms new air strikes on targets in Syria

12 killed in Ankara bus stop crash

Syrians, Afghans clash in German refugee centre

South Sudan's peace deal means little in Koch swamps

Trump: If I’m elected, Syrians go back home!

Iran says 464 dead in Saudi hajj stampede

Saudi, Iran agree to repatriate dead pilgrims

Abbas: Palestinians no longer feel bound by past agreements with Israel

Russia, US to hold ‘de-confliction’ talks on Syria

Three conditions as France voices concern over Russia involvement in Syria

Iraq Kurdish forces recapture land from ISIS jihadists

Tunisia buries Sousse gunman under strict security cordon

Iran diplomat missing after hajj stampede

Six days after hajj tragedy, Iran-Saudi tensions escalate

For first time in history, Palestinians to raise flag at UN

Finland freezes asylum decisions for Iraq, Somalia refugees

UK Labour Party ready to support Syria airstrikes, with conditions

Iran Foreign Minister under fire over ‘Obama handshake’

Parliamentary and religious support as Russia launches airstrikes in Syria

Assad regime strikes kill 27 civilians in central Syria

Iraq kidnappers free remaining 16 Turkish workers

Iran threatens 'fierce' reaction if Saudi Arabia does not repatriate hajj victims

Damascus confirms Assad request for military aid from Russia

Europe refugee crisis in focus at UN

France launches war crimes inquiry against Syria regime

Coalition seizes Iran boat with arms for Yemen rebels

Putin gets unanimous parliament support for Syria air strikes

Morocco government blocks opening of first Ikea

Israeli air raids hit Gaza in response to rocket fire

Saudi FM insists Assad must go or be ousted

US training program of Syrian rebels ‘under review’