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Thousands flee as rival troops battle in South Sudan

AFP | Last Updated: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 02:22

Juba: Rival troops were locked in fresh battles in South Sudan`s capital Tuesday in unrest that has killed at least 73 soldiers and sent thousands of terrified civilians fleeing since an alleged coup bid.

The fighting in the world`s youngest nation has set off alarm bells in the international community, with the United Nations urging the warring groups to refrain from ethnic violence.

President Salva Kiir on Monday accused soldiers loyal to his arch-rival, former vice president Riek Machar, of staging a coup attempt in the oil-rich but deeply impoverished nation. The government said 10 key figures have been arrested, and that others, including Machar, were on the run.

Minister of Information Michael Makuei Lueth told AFP that 73 soldiers were killed in the fighting, which erupted late Sunday in the capital Juba. Several civilians are also reported to have died.

Sporadic clashes could be heard throughout today in several parts of Juba. As the city was locked down under a curfew late today, Lueth said "full control" had been established, although an AFP reporter said sporadic gunfire could still be heard.

A top UN envoy said at least 10,000 civilians "have received protection in the two UNMISS compounds in Juba", and that UN staff were "taking every possible step to ensure their safety".

The special representative of the UN secretary-general, Hilde Johnson, said it was "paramount" that the conflict did not assume ethnic dimensions.

First Published: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 02:22

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