South Sudan soldiers die in 'pay battle' at army HQ

Rebel fighters hold up their weapons as in Upper Nile state, South Sudan - 11 February 2014 South Sudan has been hit by instability since its independence in 2011

Five soldiers have been killed in a shooting in the main military barracks in South Sudan's capital, Juba, an army spokesman has said.

Fighting broke out following a dispute over pay, Brig Malaak Ayuen said

But Juba-based journalist Mading Ngor told the BBC many soldiers at the barracks told him that up to 100 may have been killed in the battle.

Many people living near the barracks have fled to schools and churches, seeking safety.

Start Quote

We're fighting over money”

End Quote Unnamed soldier

The shooting erupted in the same barracks where fighting between rival army units sparked off a wider conflict in South Sudan in December.

There were no indications that the fighting had spread to other areas, Brig Ayuen said.

Presidential guards and other elite forces are based at the compound, near the city's university.

"We're fighting over money," a soldier shouted from the entrance of the Jebel barracks as gunshots rang out, Reuters news agency reports.

'Ghost employees'

BBC Africa security correspondent Moses Rono says the shooting ended after about an hour.

While the army says the fighting was limited, it had engulfed the entire barracks and heavy artillery was used, Mr Ngor told the BBC Focus on Africa radio programme.

A displaced South Sudanese man tunes his radio in the grounds of St Theresa's cathedral in Juba, on 13 January  2014 Some 860,000 people have fled their homes since the start of a conflict in December

Many people are scared that the conflict could erupt again, and Juba remains tense, he says.

Troops loyal to the government have been deployed in heavy numbers in surrounding streets, and roadblocks have been set up, Reuters reports.

The US embassy in Juba has issued a statement, advising its nationals to stay indoors, the AFP news agency reports.

Brig Ayuen said on state television that the five dead soldiers were "martyrs".

The fighting erupted after soldiers argued with a military pay panel over delayed salaries, Brig Ayuen said.

The government has introduced a new payment system to curb corruption, following concerns raised by donors, Reuters reports.

It requires soldiers and civil servants to receive their wages in person so that money is not paid into the accounts of "ghost employees" or to those who do not turn up for work, it says.

South Sudan, the world's newest nation, became independent in 2011.

In December, fighting broke out between troops loyal to President Salvar Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar, forcing some 860,000 people people to flee their homes.

A ceasefire was agreed between the two sides towards the end of January, but they have accused each other of violating it.

Peace talks hosted by Ethiopia are currently suspended and are expected to resume on 20 March.

map Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians' political bases are often ethnic.
News graphic showing the ethnic groups of South Sudan Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Map showing the location of oil fields in South Sudan Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
Map showing the geography of South Sudan The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Map showing access to water in South Sudan After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest country - and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water - up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Map showing education levels in South Sudan Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan - however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Map showing food insecurity rates in South Sudan Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).

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