Heavy casualties reported on J1 clashes in Juba
July 9, 2016 (JUBA) – Clashes between South Sudan’s rival forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to the First Vice President, Riek Machar, have left nearly 150 soldiers dead from both sides.
The heavy fighting occurred on Friday 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.
Sources said at least 150 people were confirmed dead on both sides.
“We counted about 35 of the SPLA-IO soldiers lying dead and over 80 died from the SPLA’s side. But this was not the total figure,” a senior military officer from President Salva Kiir’s faction told Sudan Tribune on Friday evening.
“It looked as if all the bodyguards of the First Vice President who were deployed on the street outside J1 were killed,” he added.
Friday’s fighting near the Presidential Palace was the most deadly clash since formation of the transitional government in South Sudan.
Asked to confirm the figure of those who lost their lives during the Friday’s confrontation, Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, said he did not receive report on the number of those killed, but added that there were “heavy” casualties.
“I have not received an official figure of those who were killed. I have however learned that the casualties were heavy from both sides,” he added.
The fighting occurred while President Kiir and his deputy, Machar, 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.
However, their bodyguards who were inside the palace did not turn against one another.
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.
But sources told Sudan Tribune that the incident seemed to have been pre-planned to coincide with the presidency meeting as a revenge on the Thursday’s incident in which five SPLA soldiers lost their lives.
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.