South Sudan rebels capture key town of Bor as clashes spread

South Sudan, which has been mired in clashes since Sunday, is the newest formed country and the ethnic hue of the fighting has sparked fears of a civil war.

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

Juba: Ater a failed coup bid on Souh Sudan President Salava Kiir, the loyalists of former Vice President Reik Machar have now taken control of a key town of Bor, the Army announced Thursday.

The town of Bor, which is the capital city of Jonglei state, was no more under the control of South Sudanese Army, said Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman.

“We lost control of Bor to the rebellion,” he said.

"There was shooting last night... we don`t have information on casualties or the displaced in the town, as operations are ongoing."

South Sudan, which has been mired in clashes since Sunday, is the newest formed country and the ethnic hue of the fighting has sparked fears of a civil war.

The clashes in the oil rich east African country are said to have been sparked after the rival military factions fought after a coup bid on the President Salva Kiir.

However, a top official has denied that the clashes were caused by any coup attempt, said a news agency.

Choul Laam, chief of staff for the secretary general of the ruling Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement, said that the fighting was triggered by the ethnic tensions between two factions of the military belonging to differnet tribes - Dinka and Neur.

According to the official, the violence was sparked after the members of the Dinka tribe tried to disarm those from Neur tribe.

Kiir had earlier said that the coup was attempted by the loyalists of ex-Vice President Reik Machar (of Neur tribe) who had fallen out of him in July and was fired.

The government has said that 10 major political figures have been held so far and a hunt is on for the ex-vice president.

Yesterday, Kiir said he was ready to hold talks with Machar, although dubious of the results.

Reacting to President Salva Kiir`s accusations that there was a coup bid attempted on him, former Vice President of South Sudan Reik Machar rubbished the allegation saying he had nothing to do with the clashes and did not try to topple the government, reports said Tuesday.

Talking to the BBC, Reik Machar, who had fallen out with the President in July, said that Salva Kiir had incited "tribal and ethnic violence" to hide his shortcomings.

The clashes which have spread way beyond the capital Juba, are said to have claimed 500 lives said UN diplomats.

The fighting is disturbingly on ethnic lines as the military factions loyal to President Salva Kiir of Dinka tribe are pitted against those from Neur tribe, loyal to Machar.

As the violence spiralled, tens of thousands of civilians took shelter in the UN mission in Juba.

According to the president of the Security Council, French Ambassador Gerard Araud, over 20,000 people had taken to the UN mission for safety.

As South Sudan clashes continue to rage, the UK government on Thursday sent an aircraft to South Sudan to airlift its citizens from the strife-ravage country where the death toll is said to have reached the mark of 500.

According to the BBC, the British Foreign Office has told Britons to make contact if they wanted to be flown out of the country.

Over 150 British nationals had so far contacted the British embassy to ask for help in leaving the country, said a British Foreign Office spokeswoman according o the report.

The British Foreign Office had said on Wednesday that it was withdrawing some of its embassy staff from South Sudan.

However, the British embassy in Juba will be open.

Reacting to the reports of clashes, the United States directed Americans to leave South Sudan immediately.

The US Embassy that suspended its normal operations, said in an advisory that the US citizens in South Sudan "should review their personal security situation and seriously reconsider their plans."