JUBA – Heavy fighting erupted again in South Sudan’s capital on Sunday as former rebels and government soldiers exchanged fire two days after gun battles left around 252 fighters dead.
“Gunshots, heavily armed exchange UN House area once again; going on now since approx. 0825 (0525 GMT),” the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said on Twitter.
The UN House camp, close to where both former rebels and government soldiers are stationed at the foot of a mountain to the west of the city, is home to roughly 28,000 people previously uprooted by the war.
The violence comes a day after the world’s youngest country marked its fifth independence anniversary, and is a fresh blow to a peace deal that has failed to end the civil war that broke out in December 2013.
City residents in the area of the camp began fleeing their homes as the UN reported the use of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and “heavy ground assault weaponry”. A helicopter gunship was also reported above Juba.
A steady stream of fearful civilians, clutching children and possessions, was seen heading for the refuge of another UN base close to the city’s airport.
A spokesman for former rebel leader turned vice president Riek Machar blamed government troops for the latest fighting. “Our forces have been attacked at Jebel base,” said James Gatdet Dak, who claimed the attack had been repulsed. “We hope it will not escalate,” he said.
The outbreak of fighting on Sunday morning was the first since Friday when brief, but heavy exchanges of fire left an estimated 252 soldiers dead on both sides.