Heavy fighting broke out between South Sudan’s rival forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to the First Vice President, Riek Machar, in the capital Juba on Friday.
The fighting occurred while President Kiir and his deputy, Machar, and second vice president Igga Wani were in a meeting inside the Palace.
A huge force came from nowhere and joined up with President Kiir’s tiger force and opened fire on Machar’s bodyguards deployed outside the Palace for protection.
The two leaders, trapped inside the palace, were later on seen making a joint press statement condemning the fighting and claiming that none of them had knowledge about the cause of the clashes outside the palace.
Machar safely returned to his Jebel Kujur base, escorted by President Kiir’s forces in what was seen as a humiliation to suggest that they had spared his life.
Sudan Tribune reports that nearly 150 soldiers dead from both sides; 35 SPLA-IO soldiers and over 80 died from the SPLA’s side.
A senior military officer from President Salva Kiir’s faction told Sudan Tribune that fighting broke out near J1, the Presidential Palace, between troops of the South Sudanese army (SPLA) and protection unit of the First Vice President, Machar, of the SPLA in Opposition.
The military official said all bodyguards of the First Vice President who were deployed on the street outside J1 were killed in the most deadly clash since formation of the transitional government in South Sudan.
Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, said he did not receive report on the number of those killed.
Machar left State House hours later for his residence in Gudele escorted by both government and SPLA-IO soldiers.
“First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar, has reached his residence at Jebel site safely…,” Dak said.
He said the heavy fighting which erupted outside J1 (not inside of it) had subsided and no casualties are yet reported.
“The situation has however remained tense as roads have been blocked. Like I said our leadership is safe. The two leaders are calling for calm, hopefully there will be calm.”
He added: “I want our supporters to ignore the wild rumours that our Chairman has been arrested and forced to speak to the media to calm the situation.”