Heavy gunfire erupted outside the compound of South Sudan’s president Friday evening, as Salva Kiir was preparing to address the nation on the latest deadly fighting in the capital, Juba.
Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar, a former rebel leader in the country’s recent civil war, were meeting about recent violence when the gunfire began. They told reporters they did not know what was happening. The gunfire later stopped but left residents of the capital panicked.
Both Kiir and Machar urged calm, and Machar said “measures will be taken so that peace is restored even to the heart of the city,” South Sudan’s Radio Tamazuj tweeted.
An Associated Press reporter in Juba said the shooting came from the direction of Kololo, the neighborhood of the presidential palace and some diplomatic missions. He said the gunfire was a mix of heavy and light weapons.
South Sudanese state media urged residents to “be calm and stay in your house. … The security is well-maintained in this country.”
The gunfire came a day after five South Sudanese government soldiers were killed in a shootout between opposing army factions in the capital amid fears of a return to civil war in the world’s newest country. The U.N. mission also reported an attack that wounded a senior official.