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South Sudan fighting: Gunfire erupts again in Juba


Intense fighting has resumed in South Sudan's capital, Juba, as an increasingly tense security situation threatened to send the young country back to all-out civil war. 

Violence from Thursday to Saturday killed more than 100 people, mostly soldiers from different armed factions, after gun battles broke out across the capital. 

Gunfire was also heard on Sunday morning in the city's south-west, near an army barracks and a United Nations base.

A witness told the Reuters news agency that gunfire could be heard in the Gudele and Jebel suburbs, near a military barracks that hosts troops loyal to the country's vice president Riek Machar.

"There were some loud booms, audible from 10km away," Al Jazeera's John Hendren, reporting from Juba, said.

"We are told that fighting has now [10:00 GMT] stopped, some two and a half hours later, but it involved tanks, small arms fire and helicopter gunships, so it appeared to be a pretty massive confrontation."

'Hope of peace is dimming'

The fighting on Friday began outside the presidential compound as President Salva Kiir was meeting with former rebel leader Machar and soon spread throughout the city.

An Al Jazeera correspondent later saw bodies of soldiers on the lawn in the compound, but was forbidden from filming them. 

William Gatjiath Deng, spokesman for Machar's military faction, said the fighting had happened near the presidential compound, known as the State House, and in army barracks.

"In the morning we collected and counted 35 (dead) from the SPLM-IO (Machar's faction) and 80 people from the government forces," he was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency on Saturday.

 

Local broadcaster Radio Tamazuj put the number of total deaths at 146.

Our correspondent said the latest bout of violence meant "that the hopes of peace were dimming" in the country, which marked on Saturday its fifth independence anniversary.

"These are not good times," Hendren said. "Two days ago, the presidential palace was struck - that is a major strike into the heart of government here and shows just how shaky it is.  

"And on Saturday, the fifth Independence Day was completely silent because Juba was shut down - it was militarily occupied, which is exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen here under a peace accord in August."

South Sudan was founded with optimistic celebrations in the capital on July 9, 2011, after it gained independence from Sudan in a referendum that passed with close to 100 percent of the vote.

The country  descended into conflict in December 2013 after Kiir accused Machar, his former deputy who he had sacked earlier that year, of plotting a coup.

Civil war broke out when soldiers from Kiir's Dinka ethnic group disarmed and targeted troops of Machar's Nuer ethnic group. Machar and commanders loyal to him fled to the countryside, and tens of thousands of people died in the conflict that followed. Many civilians also starved. 

A peace agreement SIGNED IN August collapsed and fighting continues in many parts of the country, despite both leaders joining a unity government two months ago.