5 soldiers killed in clashes

"I want to tell the public that there should be no panic. The situation is now calm and the leadership ordered the two forces to go back to their barracks,"

Five South Sudan soldiers killed in clashes

Five soldiers have been killed in a shootout in South Sudan's capital Juba, army and former rebel officials said Friday, in the latest blow to a shaky peace deal.

"There were military clashes yesterday (Thursday) around 8 pm. Five soldiers have been killed in the incident," said Nyarji Roman, a spokesman for rebel leader turned vice president Riek Machar.

The clashes took place two days before South Sudan marks the fifth anniversary of its independence from Sudan.

It was believed to be the first time the army and former rebels had clashed in the capital since both established positions there as part of the August 2015 peace agreement.

Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said the five soldiers, all loyal to President Salva Kiir, were killed and two others wounded in the shootout at a checkpoint in the city's Gudele neighbourhood.

Gudele was the scene of tribal massacres at the outbreak of the war in December 2013.

- 'Isolated incident' -

Koang blamed the former rebels for the "hostile fire" but insisted it was "an isolated incident".

The peace deal was supposed to end a civil war that began when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup. But Machar did not return to the capital until April, and fighting has continued despite the establishment of a unity government.

Roman said the shooting began when two vehicles used by Machar's bodyguards were stopped by soldiers. He said two former rebels were also injured in the clash.

He added that calm had since been restored. "I want to tell the public that there should be no panic. The situation is now calm and the leadership ordered the two forces to go back to their barracks," Roman said.

In other incidents, a UN worker was reportedly injured in a separate shooting and a US embassy vehicle was also shot at, Roman said.

Tens of thousands of people have died in the more than two years of civil war, close to three million have been forced from their homes and nearly five million survive on emergency food rations.

The humanitarian crisis takes place alongside an economic one with the currency collapsing and inflation spiralling out of control.

The country's mainstay oil industry is in tatters and regional towns have been razed.

The peace process appears to have stalled with hardliners on both sides uninterested in a negotiated settlement and mistrust and bad faith characterising relations within the unity government.

Fighting continues outside the capital with the most recent serious clashes taking place in the town of Wau late last month.

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