Scores of bodies have reached a hospital in South Sudan's capital Juba after fierce fighting broke out through the evening of Friday, 8 July, between the nation's rival forces. The soldiers who brought the bodies to Juba Teaching Hospital were reportedly not allowing the doctors to examine the dead.
As a result, the hospital is unable to confirm the number of deaths, a doctor told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity as he feared for his safety. The doctor said that majority of the bodies were of soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar's troops.
Heavy gunfire was heard near the presidential palace in the capital on Friday, where both the president and vice president were inside the building. They were calling for calm as the clashes, which began on 7 July, escalated. South Sudan observes its fifth Independence Day today on 9 July, but its people are reported to be seen celebrating it quietly.
The news agency reported that clashes continued into Friday night outside a UN base in the capital, which houses more than 25,000 people. Budbud Chol, a night security guard at a clinic inside the base, said the clinic received about 40 people who have been injured by gunshots. Except for three, the victims were men. One woman was hit by a stray bullet inside the base, Chol added.
United Nation's Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that he was "deeply alarmed" by the clashes and said the country's warring parties are not committed to peace process. He urged Kiir and Machar to work together to end the fighting and implement the peace talks by demobilising the rival combatants.
"[The fighting] represents a new betrayal of the people of South Sudan, who have suffered from unfathomable atrocities since December 2013," Ban said in a statement. He also voiced his concerns over the growing violence in the northern region of South Sudan – Wan and Bentiu – which he felt could lead to a "dramatic deterioration of the security situation across the country".
Machar's troops were reported to have begun shooting at a checkpoint manned by army personnel loyal to Kiir on 7 July, because the former refused to allow their vehicles to be searched when the president's loyalist troops stopped them. Five soldiers were killed and two others injured in the battle between soldiers loyal to the two men on Thursday.
This is reported to have been the most intense clash between the soldiers, since Machar returned to Juba in April. However, the South Sudan government vowed to restrain their military troops.
"All we want to tell the public now is that they should remain calm. This incident also will be controlled, and then measures will be taken so that peace is restored," Machar said at a joint press meet with Kiir on Friday.
The president also earlier announced he would cancel the Independence Day celebrations, due to ongoing civil war that began in 2013, and to save money. The war has also resulted in the rise in inflation and a 90% devaluation of the South Sudanese pound.