Heavy fighting broke out in the capital of the world’s newest nation on Monday morning in what the country’s foreign minister is calling an attempted coup.
Explosions and gunfire rang through Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and the U.S. and British embassies urged their citizens to remain indoors. Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said a group of soldiers led by a former vice president were attempting to overthrow the government. Other officials were more cautious. Peter Biar Ajak, another government official, told CNN: “The army is fighting each other. I cannot call it an attempted coup or a coup at this stage.” But a military spokesman was quick to note that the tension was being diffused and that army was “in full control of Juba.”
According to the AP, tensions in the country have been high since President Salva Kiir fired Vice President Riek Machar as his deputy in July. It was not clear on Monday morning whether Machar was involved in the fighting. South Sudan, which became an independent country in July 2011, is the youngest U.N. member state.