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Originally published December 18, 2013 at 4:49 PM | Page modified December 19, 2013 at 6:53 AM

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500 dead in ethnic clashes in South Sudan

The clashes apparently are pitting soldiers from the majority Dinka tribe of President Salva Kiir against those from ousted Vice President Riek Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.


The Associated Press

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JUBA, South Sudan — At least 500 people, most of them soldiers, have been killed in South Sudan since Sunday, a senior government official said, as an ethnic rivalry threatened to tear apart the world’s newest country.

The clashes apparently are pitting soldiers from the majority Dinka tribe of President Salva Kiir against those from ousted Vice President Riek Machar’s Nuer ethnic group, raising concerns the violence could degenerate into a civil war.

Fighting spread Wednesday to Jonglei, the largest state in South Sudan, where troops loyal to Machar were said to be trying to take control of Bor, the state capital.

Machar himself is the subject of a manhunt by the country’s military after he was identified by Kiir as the leader of an alleged coup attempt Sunday. Machar has denied he was behind any coup attempt.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the foreign minister, said late Wednesday that there was heavy fighting in Bor, but he denied renegade soldiers had overtaken it.

“There is fighting there, but (government forces) haven’t lost control of the town,” he said, accusing Machar of mobilizing soldiers to mutiny against the government.

Col. Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman, said there was fighting Wednesday among troops in Jonglei state but it was not clear “who is fighting who.”

He said military officials in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, were trying to confirm reports of defections in Bor.

At least 19 civilians have been killed in violence in Bor, said Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general’s office, citing figures from the South Sudan Red Cross. He said tensions were also on the rise in the states of Unity and Upper Nile.

Tensions have been mounting in South Sudan since Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in July. Machar has said he will contest the presidency in 2015.

Kiir told a news conference in Juba late Wednesday that he was willing to enter talks with Machar, a rival for power within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party.

“I will sit down with him so that we talk, but I cannot tell what the outcome of such talks would be,” he said.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said South Sudan was experiencing a political crisis that “urgently needs to be dealt with through political dialogue.” Ban said he urged Kiir “to resume dialogue with the political opposition.”

South Sudan has been plagued by ethnic violence since it peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011 after decades of civil war. The fighting began Sunday in Juba, but it was mostly calm Wednesday.



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