Hundreds of civilians sought shelter in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s compound adjacent to the Juba International Airport on Thursday (December 19) following fighting that broke out in the city on Sunday.
South Sudanese Government troops battled to regain control of a flashpoint town and sent forces to quell fighting in a vital oil producing area on Thursday, the fifth day of a conflict that has deepened ethnic divisions in the two-year-old nation.
The conflict, which has so far killed up to 500 people, has alarmed South Sudan’s neighbours. African mediators held talks with President Salva Kiir on Thursday to try to broker peace.
The fighting that erupted around the capital Juba on Sunday night has quickly spread, pitting loyalists of the former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, against Kiir, a member of the dominant Dinka clan.
Fighting erupted on Sunday night between soldiers in the presidential guard, following a coup attempt on President Salva Kiir’s government by soldiers loyal to his former deputy Riek Machar.
However, Machar, whose dismissal in July led to months of tensions, has denied Kiir’s accusation that he had led a coup attempt.
The fighting, which broke out overnight and intensified in the early morning with reports of continuous gunfire and several explosions, has led to a night time curfew.
Mr Kiir said the government was in full control of the capital, Juba, after a night of heavy fighting.