Renewed heavy fighting breaks out in South Sudan capital
Heavy fighting has continued in South Sudan between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels backing former vice president, Riek Machar, for the fifth day in a row.
According to media reports, fierce fighting and heavy weapons gunfire shook South Sudan’s capital Juba on Monday with witnesses reporting major explosions all over the volatile city.
Tanks, helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and mortars are being used in the latest bout of violence.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said gunfire erupted around one of its headquarters in the Jebel area of Juba and also around a base near the airport.
The UN base is home to some 30,000 residents, who are displaced by fighting in the country.
At least two UN peacekeepers from China were killed at the base Sunday night.
A video footage broadcast on Chinese state TV showed smoke rising after the attack and Chinese peacekeepers tending to their wounded.
An eyewitness in the UN base told the Associated Press that he saw a government tank fire on a Chinese armored personnel carrier.
Witnesses reported “very, very heavy fighting,” with residents barricading themselves inside houses and aid workers holed up in bunkers across the war-ravaged capital.
The United Nations Security Council has expressed deep alarm over the renewed fighting and surge in violence, which has left at least 270 people dead since Friday and risks plunging the country into a new civil war.
The 15-member council demanded that President Kiir and his former vice president, Machar, “do their utmost to control their respective forces, urgently end the fighting and prevent the spread of violence.” The council has also pressed South Sudan’s neighbors to help end the renewed fighting.
The UN Security Council has urged both sides to halt the violence and called for the full implementation of the 2015 peace agreement.
The capital has been mired in fighting since Thursday when troops loyal to Kiir and Machar clashed, raising fears of a return to a full-blown conflict after a two-year lull.
After a pause on Saturday, battles began in earnest on Sunday morning, continuing throughout the day in several parts of the city before subsiding overnight and resuming Monday.
Thousands of people have been killed and more than three million forced to flee their homes in the war that started in December 2013, when President Kiir sacked his former deputy Machar only two years after the country seceded from Sudan.
The two sides eventually signed an agreement in August last year to bring the conflict to an end. As part of the deal, Machar returned to Juba in April to take up the post of vice president in a national unity government.
Africa’s youngest country marked the fifth anniversary of its independence on Saturday.
Nearly five million people are in need of food to survive a famine in South Sudan.