HEAVY VI­O­LENCE

Hun­dreds die, thou­sands flee in Su­dan clashes

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AGEN­CIES in Juba, South Su­dan

The United Na­tions re­ceived re­ports from lo­cal sources in South Su­dan on Tues­day that hun­dreds of peo­ple had been killed and wounded in the lat­est vi­o­lence, and the gov­ern­ment said it had ar­rested 10 politi­cians in con­nec­tion with a “foiled coup”.

“Two hos­pi­tals have recorded be­tween 400 and 500 dead and (up to) 800 wounded,” a diplo­mat in New York said on con­di­tion of anonymity, cit­ing an es­ti­mate UN peace­keep­ing chief Herve Lad­sous gave dur­ing a closed-door brief­ing for the 15-mem­ber body.

Another diplo­mat con­firmed Lad­sous’ re­marks, adding that the UN was not in a po­si­tion to ver­ify the fig­ures.

Ear­lier on Tues­day, a South Su­danese health min­istry of­fi­cial said that at least 26 peo­ple were dead af­ter fight­ing in Juba be­tween ri­val groups of sol­diers from Sun­day night into Mon­day morn­ing. Spo­radic gun­fire and blasts con­tin­ued up to Tues­day evening.

The gov­ern­ment said it had ar­rested 10 ma­jor po­lit­i­cal fig­ures and was hunt­ing for its for­mer vice-pres­i­dent, ac­cus­ing him of lead­ing a failed coup in the oil-pro­duc­ing coun­try’s cap­i­tal, where gun­fire rang out for a sec­ond day.

The promi­nence of the names, in­clud­ing for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Kosti Manibe among those who had been de­tained, un­der­lined the size of the rift in Africa’s new­est state, less than two and a half years af­ter it se­ceded from Su­dan.

The United States said on Wed­nes­day that it will start evac­u­at­ing non- es­sen­tial em­bassy staff and cit­i­zens from the coun­try im­me­di­ately, and that it was sus­pend­ing nor­mal op­er­a­tions at its em­bassy.

Plagued by ethic rifts

White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Su­san Rice in a post on Twit­ter said she was “Deeply, deeply con­cerned by vi­o­lence in South Su­dan”, and the White House said US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was get­ting brief­ings on the sit­u­a­tion.

South Su­dan’s Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir said on Mon­day that forces loyal to for­mer vice-pres­i­dent Riek Machar, whom he sacked in July, had attacked an army base in a bid to seize power.

But Machar de­nied such ac­cu­sa­tions in a state­ment on Wed­nes­day.

“What took place in Juba was a mis­un­der­stand­ing be­tween pres­i­den­tial guards within their di­vi­sion; it was not a coup at­tempt,” Machar said in his first pub­lic com­ments since in­tense fight­ing broke out on Sun­day.

South Su­dan is one of the poor­est and least de­vel­oped coun­tries in Africa de­spite its oil re­serves, and it is plagued by eth­nic fight­ing.

Around 16,000 peo­ple had taken refuge in UN com­pounds in Juba by noon on Tues­day, and the num­bers were ris­ing, the UN said.

HAKIM GE­ORGE / REUTERS

A fam­ily ar­rives at the United Na­tions com­pound on the out­skirts of Juba, cap­i­tal of South Su­dan, on Tues­day.

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