JUBA: South Sudan’s military said Friday 35 people were killed in fighting at its main barracks this week over delayed salaries, raising the toll from five, and sporadic shooting was heard in the capital Juba.
The flare-up Wednesday night at Giada barracks, where clashes December spilled over into Juba and beyond, shows the tensions that persist in Africa’s newest nation, which came close to civil war before an often-violated Jan. 23 cease-fire.
“It [the death toll] rose from 5 to 35, that’s the report I got,” Major-General Marial Chanuong told Reuters by phone.
He gave no explanation for the gunfire in Juba overnight.
The fighting in Giada involved a specialist force known as the commandos, the military said. Peter Gatwech Gai, the head of the commando unit was put in isolation “for his safety” after the incident, the military said.
Malaak Ayuen, the army’s director of information, said that the toll was likely to climb as more bodies are discovered.
“Some people were killed in their offices, and houses came down on them so we started removing the stones and rubble. More bodies were discovered yesterday,” Ayuen said.
“A lot of shells, a lot of ammo and missiles were damaged. We have asked now to be given the records of the store to know exactly the type and quantity of the damage.”
South Sudan’s government has been at war with rebel groups since Dec. 15, when a clash between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing sacked Vice President Riek Machar snowballed into full-scale fighting across the country.
Regional African bloc IGAD, which is mediating the peace talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa that have failed to take off in earnest, may send in troops to stabilize the country.
The World Food Program said it was planning to airlift and airdrop urgently needed food aid to thousands of refugees affected by the conflict.
“The crisis has seriously damaged food security,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva Friday, while a statement warned the insecurity in the country was “pushing millions further into hunger and severely complicating ... efforts to provide relief.”