S. Sudan Fighting Enters 5th Day

S. Sudan Fighting Enters 5th Day

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) -- Explosions and heavy weapons gunfire are shaking South Sudan's capital Juba Monday in the fifth day of clashes between government and opposition forces, raising the specter of a return to civil war.

Widespread shooting preventing residents from moving in the city.

A "massive explosion" hit shortly after 9 a.m. followed by further blasts in the Tomping area of Juba, home to embassies, the airport and a U.N. base, said an aid worker.

"It rings through the whole city every time they fire," said the aid worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to press. "I think one of the tanks must be near me, my ears are burning."

Explosions and "very heavy gunfire" sounding "like popcorn," was reported by a resident in the Gudele area, who insisted on anonymity for safety.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan reported on Twitter that clashes restarted near its compound in Jebel, where some 30,000 civilians have taken refuge. The opposition also has a base near Jebel and their leader also has his home there.

Two U.N. peacekeepers from China were killed at the base Sunday night, according to Chinese state media. An eyewitness in the U.N. base who was not authorized to speak to the press told The Associated Press that he saw a government tank fire on a Chinese armored personnel carrier.

There were 67 injuries and 8 deaths in the U.N. base Sunday, according to an internal situation report circulated among humanitarian organizations and seen by AP. Water tanks have not been able to bring water to the tens of thousands sheltering inside the base.

The fighting in the capital began Thursday and continued through the weekend, when South Sudan marked its fifth anniversary of independence from Sudan. The gun battles in the capital are similar to fighting in December 2013 that sparked a two-year civil war in which tens of thousands died and displaced more than 2 million.

President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar, who is now vice president, signed a peace accord last year and formed a transitional coalition government. But fighting continued anyway, and the current clashes in Juba threaten to plunge the parts of South Sudan that had been relatively stable back into violence.

The renewed fighting has once again divided South Sudan along ethnic lines, with Kiir's supporters largely Dinka and Machar's followers mostly Nuer.

Many of the thousands displaced by the renewed fighting in Juba are sheltering at the two U.N. bases, a World Food Program compound and other areas, said U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokeswoman Matilda Moyo.

The United States told its citizens it would evacuate all non-essential staff from the country. The Canadian embassy has closed entirely, according to a message sent to its citizens. India is planning to evacuate its citizens, according to a tweet by its external affairs minister.

(KA)