Fighting spreads in South Sudan sparking fears of a renewal of ethnic bloodshed

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Fighting in South Sudan has spread outside the capital Juba after a reported coup attempt at the weekend. The violence has raised fears of a return to all out ethnic conflict.

President Salva Kiir has accused his former vice president of orchestrating the fighting which has killed up to 500 people. But on Wednesday he said he was ready for dialogue.

However South Sudan’s army has lost control of the flashpoint town of Bor – north of the capital – which was the scene of ethnic massacres in 1991.

The fighting has raised international concerns including those of UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon:

“I call on the government to cooperate fully with UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) as it fulfils its protection mandate, including in the provision of basic relief to civilians in need and in conducting human rights investigations into allegations of human rights abuses in recent days,” he said.

More than 20,000 people are seeking refuge in UN camps around the country.

Tensions have been simmering since the president sacked Vice President Riek Machar in July.

The government has now arrested ten people including several former ministers.

South Sudan is normally racked by ethnic divisions but President Kiir says this dispute is political.

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