Foreigners evacuate South Sudan as civil war threat grows (+video)
An estimated 500 people have been killed since fighting within the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) army broke out over the weekend in what the government calls an attempted coup.
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Latin America Editor
Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.
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Britain and the United States are helping citizens to leave South Sudan this week, as violence that sparked from an alleged coup attempt in the capital on Sunday spread beyond Juba. Farther north today, armed forces reportedly lost control of the town of Bor to mutinous troops, deepening concern that warnings about civil war in the two-year-old nation could become a reality.
“The scenario many feared but dared not contemplate looks frighteningly possible: South Sudan, the world’s newest state (see map here), is now arguably on the cusp of a civil war,” the International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote in a press statement this week.
An estimated 500 people have been killed since fighting within the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) army broke out over the weekend in what the government calls an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, who was removed from his position in July. Mr. Machar denied the allegations on Wednesday.
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Choul Laam, chief of staff for the secretary general of the ruling SPLM, countered the idea that violence started as a coup attempt against President Salva Kiir, saying the fighting broke out when the presidential guard tried to "disarm members of the guard who were from the minority Nuer tribe," reports the Associated Press.
President Kiir flushed his cabinet in July, including Machar, and observers worried it could lead to more widespread tensions. According to Al Jazeera:
Both men are former rebel fighters and senior figures in the governing Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which led South Sudan to independence after a civil war with Sudan that lasted 22 years. Earlier this month, Machar denounced “dictatorial” behaviour by Kiir, revealing the bitter divisions within the SPLM.
Rival Army units initiated the fighting, but the violence began targeting civilians of different ethnic groups, according to the ICG.