Fighting in South Sudan town kills four, thousands flee

Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:07pm EST
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By Hereward Holland

JUBA (Reuters) - A gunfight between South Sudanese soldiers and a former rebel commander's guards killed four people in a small eastern town, destroyed buildings there and forced thousands to flee, witnesses and officials said on Monday.

Symptomatic of the disorder that has plagued some parts of the south since it split from Sudan after decades of civil war, the fighting on Sunday in Jonglei state's Pibor broke out between soldiers on patrol and bodyguards of James Kuberin.

Such outbreaks are stymying efforts to exploit oil reserves in the new nation and subverting government efforts to build up state institutions and assert control over an impoverished country the size of France that is awash with weapons.

One soldier, two civilians and a former rebel were killed in the gunfight and Kuberin fled with his guards, army spokesman Philip Aguer said. He declined to say whether the army had fired on unarmed civilians.

Kuberin was commander of a group led by David Yau Yau, one of several militias fighting the army because of alleged abuses during a disarmament program and corruption in the Juba government. Kuberin defected to the army in December.

Witnesses said Kuberin went to Pibor's market for a haircut and was told by an army patrol not to walk around with armed guards.

Witness Peter Gazulu said one soldier had a hand grenade.

"Somebody tried to take it and they wrestled with it and it exploded. The guy died. Then the other men opened fire on the bodyguards and they escaped," he told Reuters by telephone.   Continued...