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    UN Chief Urges Calm in South Sudan

    FILE - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
    FILE - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
    VOA News
    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for calm in South Sudan's capital, where the government says it is fighting off a coup attempt.
     
    U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky says Ban spoke by phone Tuesday with South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir, and expressed concern about the fighting and reports that, in his words, certain communities are being targeted.
     
    “The secretary-general urged all parties to cease hostilities immediately, and called on the government to exercise restraint in the management of the situation and to guarantee the protection of all civilians regardless of their ethnicities," said Nesirky.
     
    On Monday, President Kiir said forces loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar, attacked an army headquarters as part of an attempted coup.
     
    Kiir fired Machar in July.  Observers have expressed concern that the rift between Machar, from the Nuer ethnic group, and Kiir, a Dinka, could fuel tribal violence in South Sudan.
     
    • Members of the South Sudan rebel delegation attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's peace negotiations, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 4, 2014.
    • Taban Deng Gai, left, head of the rebel delegation and South Sudan's leader of the government delegation, Nhial Deng Nhial, attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's peace negotiations, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 4, 2014.
    • Unidentified members of the delegation from the South Sudan government and western observers meet at the Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 4, 2014.
    • A displaced mother and her baby, one of the few to have a mosquito net, wake up at a refugee camp, Awerial, South Sudan, Jan. 2, 2014.
    • A young displaced girl carries a bucket of water back to her makeshift shelter at a United Nations compound. The compound has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
    • Displaced people gather inside a mosquito net tent as they flee from the fighting between the South Sudanese army and rebels in Bor town, in Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 30, 2013.
    • A displaced woman hangs up laundry on the plastic sheeting wall of a latrine at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
    • Yared, 2, is held by his mother, Madhn, who fled from the town of Bor a few days ago. She receives medicine for her child at a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical tent, at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
    • A young displaced boy rests on the wheel arch of a water truck while others fill containers from it, at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Africa, Dec. 31, 2013.
    • A family makes tea outside their makeshift shelter at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
    • A general view of a camp for displaced people set up in a United Nations compound in Bor, South Sudan, Dec. 25, 2013.
    • South Sudan army soldiers hold their weapons as they ride on a truck in Bor, Dec. 25, 2013.

    More gunfire was heard in Juba Tuesday, a day after Kiir insisted his forces had "full control" of the security situation in the city.
     
    Government officials say the violence has killed at least 26 people, while a U.N. radio station Radio Miraya reported that doctors at a local hospital have treated more than 100 people for gunshot wounds.
     
    U.N. diplomats said Tuesday they were told that local sources in Juba put the death toll at 400 to 500, but that figure could not be verified.
     
    The president of the U.N. Security Council, French Ambassador Gerard Araud, said as many as 20,000 people have taken refuge with the U.N. mission in Juba.
     
    The U.S. State Department has ordered the departure of all non-essential personnel from South Sudan and is urging all Americans in the country to leave immediately.
     
    In a Tuesday briefing, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. is "deeply troubled" by the continued fighting and is urging South Sudan's political leaders to refrain from any action that could further escalate tensions.
     
    South Sudan's government said 10 people have been arrested for their alleged roles in the coup attempt, while Machar remains at large.
     
    Government security forces have imposed a nighttime curfew in Juba and were searching door-to-door for those blamed for the fighting.
     
    The United Nations Mission in South Sudan estimates that 10,000 civilians have sought protection at two of its compounds in Juba, with 39 people receiving medical treatment.
     
    Hilde Johnson, the U.N. special representative for South Sudan, has urged South Sudan's leaders to "refrain from any action that fuels ethnic tensions" and makes the violence worse.

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