* President blames supporters of sacked deputy
* Thousands take shelter at U.N. bases in capital
* South Sudan has struggled since 2011 independence
By Carl Odera
JUBA, Dec 16 Gunfire rang out again in South
Sudan's capital Juba late on Monday hours after President Salva
Kiir said his forces had quelled an "attempted coup" by
supporters of his sacked deputy.
Kiir earlier said fighters loyal to former vice president
Riek Machar had attacked an army base into the early hours of
Monday morning, but the military was in control. He imposed a
After the streets emptied, and thousands of locals took
refuge in U.N. compounds in Juba, diplomats and a U.N. official
reported hearing fresh shooting from around 10 p.m. (1900 GMT)
in the city's Tomping neighbourhood.
"We too have heard the gunshots in Tomping. Really urging
everyone to stay indoors and stay safe," the U.S. embassy in
Juba said on its Twitter feed. Mobile phone networks were down
across the capital.
The U.N. official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters
they had turned out the lights to avoid attracting attention.
The government has struggled to establish a functioning
state since declaring independence from Sudan in 2011 to become
Africa's newest nation.
Kiir dismissed Machar after mounting public criticism at the
government's failure to deliver better public services in the
oil-producing nation, which is the size of France but barely has
any tarmac roads.
The two men are from different ethnic groups which have
clashed in the past. Machar has said he wants to run for
Heavy gunfire and blasts first erupted late Sunday and into
early morning, then appeared to die down by midday, as
government soldiers patrolled the streets and set up roadblocks,
Kiir appeared on national television on Monday afternoon,
flanked by ministers and wearing combat fatigues rather than his
usual civilian clothes.
He said the fighting broke out after an unidentified person
fired shots in the air near a ruling party conference.
"This was followed later by an attack at the SPLA (South
Sudan army) headquarters near Juba University by a group of
soldiers allied to the former vice-president Dr Riek Machar and
his group. These attacks continued until this morning," he said.
"However, I would like to inform you, at the outset, that
your government is in full control of the security situation in
At least 10,000 civilians took refuge in U.N. compounds in
the capital, said one U.N. official who asked not to be named.
Kenyan airlines Fly540 and Kenya Airways suspended
flights indefinitely to Juba after the airport closed.
Speaking by phone earlier in the day, a U.N. spokesman said
seven people had been treated for gunshot wounds, including a
A Reuters reporter saw one man with blood all over his legs
being carried by civilians along the largely deserted streets in
the direction of the hospital.
The earlier clashes were concentrated at two military bases,
the Bilpam barracks north of the airport and the Jebel barracks
south of Juba, where the presidential guard is based, residents
CALLING FOR RESTRAINT
The fighting is the latest setback for one of Africa's
poorest states. Oil production, South Sudan's main source of
revenue, was shut down for 15 months till April because of a row
with Sudan, which hosts the main export oil pipeline.
"I urge all parties in the fighting to cease hostilities
immediately and exercise restraint," U.N. Special Representative
of the Secretary-General Hilde Johnson said.
Jok Madut Jok, chairman of South Sudan's Sudd Institute
think tank, also said troops loyal to Machar were to blame.
"Riek Machar is not new to this kind of militaristic avenue
to power," he said by telephone from Juba.
After accepting his dismissal at the time, Machar has since
accused the president of acting like a dictator. Kiir said last
week that some "comrades" were threatening to drag the nation
back to a period in 1991 when South Sudanese ranks were split.
The fighting has revived memories of the factionalism in the
1990s within the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - the group
that fought Sudan's army in the north for two decades. Machar
led a splinter faction and south-south clashes erupted.
Machar is from the Nuer tribe which has fought in the past
with South Sudan's dominant Dinka tribe, to which Kiir belongs.
"The divisions, largely along ethnic lines illustrate the
embattled position the new nation's government is in," political
risk consultants Eurasia Group said.
Critics say the new nation suffers the same ills as old
Sudan, namely rampant corruption, poor public services and
repression of government opponents and media.