Juba, July 9 (IANS) At least 115 people have been confirmed killed after heavy gunfire erupted at the presidential palace in Juba, where President Salva Kiir was meeting his onetime rival, Vice-President Riek Machar, Xinhua news agency reported.
The fighting on Friday was apparently sparked by a shootout between Kiir’s and Machar’s bodyguards.
Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In-Opposition (SPLA-1O) spokesman William Gatjiath said on Saturday that the majority of the bodies were of soldiers, noting that the mortuary at Juba Teaching Hospital was full.
Gatjith said the SPLA-IO, which is being led by First Vice-President Riek Machar, incurred a number of casualties, adding that a search is still on for bodies at the State House and suburb of Juba a few hours after the gun fight.
“We have counted 35 bodies of the first circle of our bodyguards, while in Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Government (SPLA-IG) that were deployed outside the fence of State House were 80 soldiers,” Gatjiath told Xinhua in Juba.
Heavy gunfire including artillery fire had been heard from around the presidential compound since about 5:30 p.m. on Friday where President Salva Kiir, First Vice-President Riek Machar, and Vice President Wani Igga were having a meeting following Thursday’s brawl that left five soldiers dead and two wounded.
The shooting spread to nearly all neighbourhoods of the city, including outside the UN base near Jebel where some 28,000 displaced people were sheltering.
Under a peace deal agreed in August 2015, the two armed factions took up positions in Juba in April. However, the deal to end a 20-month civil war has failed to quell unrest.
Juba is in lockdown as South Sudan, the world’s newest country, marks the fifth anniversary of independence from neighbouring Sudan.