independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Coup attempt fails in South Sudan

South Sudan's president Salva Kiir says a military coup has been foiled (AP)

Soldiers loyal to a former vice president have attempted to overthrow the government of South Sudan, with sporadic fighting between factions across the capital Juba in the latest violence to hit the world's youngest nation.

President Salva Kiir said in a televised address to the nation that the military had foiled the coup.The soldiers had attacked the South Sudanese military headquarters near Juba University late on Sunday.

"The attackers went and (the) armed forces are pursuing them," Mr Kiir said. "I promise you today that justice will prevail."

The government is now "in full control of the military situation" in Juba, he said, ordering a dawn-to-dusk curfew in the city.

Details of the attempted coup remained sketchy, but foreign minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said troops within the main army base raided the weapons store in Juba but were repulsed. Some politicians had since been arrested, he said, but could not confirm if former vice president Riek Machar - who he said led the attempted coup -was among them. He said the coup was plotted by "disgruntled" soldiers and politicians led by Machar.

Heavily armed soldiers patrolled the streets of Juba on Monday amid gunfire emerging from the city's main army barracks. The streets were largely empty of civilians, with most staying indoors.

Although Mr Kiir is leader of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement party, many of the dismissed ministers, including Mr Machar, were key figures in the rebel movement that fought a decades-long war against Sudan that led to South Sudan's independence in 2011. Machar, a deputy chairman of the ruling party, is one of the country's most influential politicians.

The local Sudan Tribune newspaper reported that military clashes erupted late on Sunday between members of the presidential guard in fighting that seemed to pit soldiers from Mr Kiir's Dinka tribe against those from the Nuer tribe of Mr Machar.

Hilde Johnson, special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for South Sudan, said she was "deeply concerned" over the fighting.

" I urge all parties in the fighting to cease hostilities immediately and exercise restraint. I have been in touch regularly with the key leaders, including at the highest levels to call for calm," she said.

South Sudan has experienced bouts of ethnic violence, especially in rural Jonglei state, since the country peacefully broke away from Sudan after a brutal civil war.

-AP

Press Association

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