A military tank patrols along one of the main roads in the South Sudanese capital Juba yesterday. The South Sudanese president declared a curfew in Juba.
JUBA: South Sudan’s president announced yesterday he had defeated a coup attempt following a night of fierce fighting between rival troops in the capital of the world’s youngest nation.
The clashes broke out in a barracks close to the city centre shortly before midnight and spread across the city, diplomats and witnesses said, adding that heavy machine guns and mortars were used.
The United Nations said hundreds of terrified civilians had sought refuge in a UN compound, while across the city residents locked themselves in their homes or tried to flee to safer areas, a reporter said.
President Salva Kiir blamed troops loyal to his arch-rival, former vice president Riek Machar who was sacked from the government in July. He branded him a “prophet of doom” and vowed to bring him to justice.
“Your government is in full control of the security situation in Juba. The attackers fled and your forces are pursuing them. I promise you justice will prevail,” the president said in a televised address to the nation.
He said an overnight curfew would be imposed from 6pm to 6am (1500 to 0300 GMT), and would remain in force until further notice. A diplomat in the city said troops loyal to the president had been posted at major intersections, while civil aviation sources said that Juba airport had been shut. “I will not allow or tolerate such incidents once again in our new nation. I strongly condemn these criminal actions in the strongest terms possible,” said Kiir, who was dressed in military uniform rather than his trademark suit and cowboy hat.
Army spokesman Phil Aguer also told local radio that troops loyal to the president were “in control of the situation”.
Officials said some arrests had been made, and there were unconfirmed reports of several former ministers being detained. But the fate of Machar was unclear — with the US embassy in Juba and the UN dismissing speculation they had given him shelter.
There was also no word on casualties from the fighting.