What you need to know:
- Peter Gatdet, the head of a military division in the country’s vast and populous state, switched his loyalty to Riek Machar Wednesday, seizing control of Panpandiar and Malualchaat military bases in Bor.
More than 450 soldiers and civilians have been killed in days of clashes between rival military forces in Juba during a coup attempt in South Sudan, military spokesman Col Philip Aguer has said.
Col. Aguer said in a statement to reporters in Juba Wednesday that hundreds more were wounded.
Former Vice-President Riek Machar, whom President Salva Kiir accused of plotting the coup, was still at large.
However, soldiers loyal to him yesterday seized three strategic military bases in Jonglei State, officials and eyewitnesses have said.
Peter Gatdet, the head of a military division in the country’s vast and populous state, switched his loyalty to Riek Machar Wednesday, seizing control of Panpandiar and Malualchaat military bases in Bor.
A State minister said Gatdet had taken control of Pakwaw, about 5 km away from the Bor town centre, the capital of Jonglei State.
Thousands of civilians have been displaced to the North of the state capital as Gatdet reportedly settled some of his soldiers in Kolnyang Payam in the East of the capital.
The South Sudan Red Cross Society has confirmed 19 people killed in the overnight gunfire.
“We have seen bodies of 19, but we cannot access areas controlled by Peter Gatdet,” said David Gai Deer, the Red Cross director in Jonglei.
“The humanitarian situation is too bad because most of the displace people have no shelters, food, and access to drinking water,” he said.
Civilians caught up in the attack described harrowing scenes of the attack.
“They are shooting now, let me run,” one victim said on phone before he hang up. Sounds of gunfire could be heard at the background.
Gatdet has been an on-and-off rebel fighter.
He led a Khartoum-backed militia group during the liberation war. His group was integrated into the South Sudan army in 2006, after defecting from Khartoum.
He defected from the army again in 2011 before rejoining months later in 2012.
In Juba, the situation was slowly returning to normalcy. The airport opened and at least two planes had managed to take off, an official who was not allowed to speak for the airport authorities said.
“The situation has normalised in Juba. Businesses are operating including commercial vehicles,” said a journalist who managed to move from the Northern part of the capital to the Southern edge across the Juba Bridge.
The United Nations’ mission camp in the state said it was already hosting more than 2,000 displaced civilians.
“While the situation seems to be stabilizing in Juba, and we can resume flights, there is still some unrest in Bor and a few other locations,” according to a message UN officials attribute to the mission’s head, Ms Hilde Johnson.
Mr Riek, who denies involvement in the alleged coup plot, was still on the run.