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South Sudan

500 killed in violent clashes

Fighting spreads to capital, beyond

  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, United Nations soldiers stand guard as civilians gather at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge, Wednesday , Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.   (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

    In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, United Nations soldiers stand guard as civilians gather at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge, Wednesday , Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, United Nations soldiers stand guard as civilians gather at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge, Wednesday , Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.   (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

    In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, United Nations soldiers stand guard as civilians gather at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge, Wednesday , Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this handout image from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 a United Nations soldier stands guard as civilians arrive at UNMISS compound adjacent to the Juba International Airport to take refuge. Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital, Juba, overnight as the military "cleared out remnants" of a faction of soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday amid an ongoing hunt for the former deputy president who is accused of leading the failed plot. (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)

    In this handout image from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 a United Nations soldier stands guard as civilians arrive at UNMISS compound adjacent to the Juba International Airport to take refuge. Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital, Juba, overnight as the military "cleared out remnants" of a faction of soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday amid an ongoing hunt for the former deputy president who is accused of leading the failed plot. (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this handout image from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, Civilians arrive at UNMISS compound adjacent to Juba International Airport to take refuge. Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital, Juba, overnight as the military "cleared out remnants" of a faction of soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday amid an ongoing hunt for the former deputy president who is accused of leading the failed plot. (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)

    In this handout image from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, Civilians arrive at UNMISS compound adjacent to Juba International Airport to take refuge. Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital, Juba, overnight as the military "cleared out remnants" of a faction of soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday amid an ongoing hunt for the former deputy president who is accused of leading the failed plot. (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)

  • EDITORS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT - Somali men carry the body of a Syrian doctor for transport to Madina hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. A Somali official says suspected al-Qaida-linked militants have ambushed a convoy carrying doctors near Somali capital, killing six people, three of them foreigners. Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police commander, said Wednesday the convoy came under attack in a semi-forested area outside Mogadishu, while on their way to give medical assistance to patients at a hospital. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

    EDITORS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT - Somali men carry the body of a Syrian doctor for transport to Madina hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. A Somali official says suspected al-Qaida-linked militants have ambushed a convoy carrying doctors near Somali capital, killing six people, three of them foreigners. Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police commander, said Wednesday the convoy came under attack in a semi-forested area outside Mogadishu, while on their way to give medical assistance to patients at a hospital. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

  • EDITORS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT - Somali men carry the body of a Syrian doctor for transport to Madina hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. A Somali official says suspected al-Qaida-linked militants have ambushed a convoy carrying doctors near Somali capital, killing six people, three of them foreigners. Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police commander, said Wednesday the convoy came under attack in a semi-forested area outside Mogadishu, while on their way to give medical assistance to patients at a hospital. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

    EDITORS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT - Somali men carry the body of a Syrian doctor for transport to Madina hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. A Somali official says suspected al-Qaida-linked militants have ambushed a convoy carrying doctors near Somali capital, killing six people, three of them foreigners. Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police commander, said Wednesday the convoy came under attack in a semi-forested area outside Mogadishu, while on their way to give medical assistance to patients at a hospital. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

  • In this handout image provided by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, a United Nation soldier stands guard as civilians arrive at the UNMISS compound adjacent to Juba International Airport to take refuge. Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital, Juba, overnight as the military "cleared out remnants" of a faction of soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday amid an ongoing hunt for the former deputy president who is accused of leading the failed plot. (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)

    In this handout image provided by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, a United Nation soldier stands guard as civilians arrive at the UNMISS compound adjacent to Juba International Airport to take refuge. Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital, Juba, overnight as the military "cleared out remnants" of a faction of soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday amid an ongoing hunt for the former deputy president who is accused of leading the failed plot. (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians arrive at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.  (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

    In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians arrive at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians arrive at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.  (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

    In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians arrive at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, medics from the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) assist civilians at a Cambodian-run hospital in the UNMISS compound, adjacent to Juba International Airport Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

    In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, medics from the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) assist civilians at a Cambodian-run hospital in the UNMISS compound, adjacent to Juba International Airport Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, medics from the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) assist civilians at a Cambodian-run hospital in the UNMISS compound, adjacent to Juba International Airport Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

    In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, medics from the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) assist civilians at a Cambodian-run hospital in the UNMISS compound, adjacent to Juba International Airport Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians sit after arriving at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.  (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

    In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians sit after arriving at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians sit after arriving at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.  (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

    In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians sit after arriving at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, United Nations soldiers stand guard as civilians gather at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge, Wednesday , Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.   (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)
  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, United Nations soldiers stand guard as civilians gather at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge, Wednesday , Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.   (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)
  • In this handout image from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 a United Nations soldier stands guard as civilians arrive at UNMISS compound adjacent to the Juba International Airport to take refuge. Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital, Juba, overnight as the military "cleared out remnants" of a faction of soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday amid an ongoing hunt for the former deputy president who is accused of leading the failed plot. (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)
  • In this handout image from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, Civilians arrive at UNMISS compound adjacent to Juba International Airport to take refuge. Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital, Juba, overnight as the military "cleared out remnants" of a faction of soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday amid an ongoing hunt for the former deputy president who is accused of leading the failed plot. (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)
  • EDITORS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT - Somali men carry the body of a Syrian doctor for transport to Madina hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. A Somali official says suspected al-Qaida-linked militants have ambushed a convoy carrying doctors near Somali capital, killing six people, three of them foreigners. Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police commander, said Wednesday the convoy came under attack in a semi-forested area outside Mogadishu, while on their way to give medical assistance to patients at a hospital. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
  • EDITORS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT - Somali men carry the body of a Syrian doctor for transport to Madina hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. A Somali official says suspected al-Qaida-linked militants have ambushed a convoy carrying doctors near Somali capital, killing six people, three of them foreigners. Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior Somali police commander, said Wednesday the convoy came under attack in a semi-forested area outside Mogadishu, while on their way to give medical assistance to patients at a hospital. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
  • In this handout image provided by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, a United Nation soldier stands guard as civilians arrive at the UNMISS compound adjacent to Juba International Airport to take refuge. Sporadic gunfire rang out in the capital, Juba, overnight as the military "cleared out remnants" of a faction of soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, the country's foreign minister said Tuesday amid an ongoing hunt for the former deputy president who is accused of leading the failed plot. (AP Photo/UNMISS/Rolla Hinedi)
  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians arrive at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.  (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)
  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians arrive at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.  (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)
  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, medics from the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) assist civilians at a Cambodian-run hospital in the UNMISS compound, adjacent to Juba International Airport Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)
  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, medics from the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) assist civilians at a Cambodian-run hospital in the UNMISS compound, adjacent to Juba International Airport Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)
  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians sit after arriving at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.  (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)
  • In this image released by the United Nations Mission Juba, civilians sit after arriving at the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), adjacent to Juba International Airport, to take refuge Wednesday, Dec. 18 , 2013, in Juba, South Sudan. A South Sudanese army official said clashes among military factions have spread to the rural state of Jonglei in escalating violence that the government blames on forces loyal to a former deputy president.  (AP Photo/UNMISS, Rolla Hinedi)

At least 500 people, most of them soldiers, have been killed in South Sudan since Sunday, a senior government official said, as an ethnic rivalry threatened to tear apart the world’s newest country.

The clashes apparently are pitting soldiers from the majority Dinka tribe of President Salva Kiir against those from ousted vice president Riek Machar’s Nuer ethnic group, raising concerns it could degenerate into a civil war.

Fighting spread yesterday to Jonglei, the largest state in South Sudan, where troops loyal to Machar were said to be trying to take control of Bor, the state capital.

Machar himself is the subject of a manhunt by the country’s military after he was identified by Kiir as the leader of an alleged coup attempt Sunday. Machar has denied he was behind any coup attempt.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the foreign minister, told the Associated Press late yesterday that there was heavy fighting in Bor, but he denied renegade soldiers had overtaken it.

“There is fighting there, but (government forces) haven’t lost control of the town,” he said, accusing Machar of actively mobilizing soldiers to mutiny against the government.

Col. Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman, said there was fighting yesterday among troops in Jonglei state but that it was not clear “who is fighting who.”

He said military officials in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, were trying to confirm reports of defections in Bor.

At least 19 civilians have been killed in violence in Bor, said Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general’s office, citing figures from the South Sudan Red Cross. He said tensions were also on the rise in Unity and Upper Nile.

Tensions have been mounting in South Sudan since Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in July. Machar has said he will contest the presidency in 2015.

Kiir told a news conference in Juba late yesterday that he was willing to enter talks with Machar, a rival for power within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party.

“I will sit down with him so that we talk, but I cannot tell what the outcome of such talks would be,” he said.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told reporters yesterday that South Sudan was experiencing a political crisis that “urgently needs to be dealt with through political dialogue.”

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