Toll from barracks gunfight in South Sudan's capital rises to 35

JUBA Fri Mar 7, 2014 8:03am EST

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JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan's military said 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 on Thursday night.

The flare-up on Wednesday 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 January 23 ceasefire.

"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 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," Ayuem 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, which gained independence from northern neighbor Sudan in 2011, narrowly avoided civil war when troops loyal to sacked Vice President Riek Machar rose up against the government of President Salva Kiir.

Regional African bloc IGAD, which is mediating peace talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa that have failed to take off in earnest, may send in troops to stabilize the country.

(Reporting by Carl Odera; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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