June 17, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese government has downplayed the cause of heavy gunfire at Juba international airport on Monday, which disrupted services and caused panic among residents.
It was not immediately clear what sparked the shooting at such strategic place, with police and security operatives denying journalists and human right activists access to the scene.
“There was a panic in areas around Juba airport. People were asking what was happening but no one was able to give definite answer. We actually don’t know what the cause was, a resident told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
The South Sudanese interior minister Aleu Ayieny Aleu stated that they are probing the shooting but declined to give further details.
“We are investigating the cause of shooting and we will let the public know what happening,” the minister said on Tuesday.
The international organizations security alert network notified its membership on Tuesday advising them to exercise caution, saying Automatic gunfire has been reported from the vicinity of Juba airport around 1545 hrs.
No official statements have so far been made from either the office of the spokesperson of South Sudanese army or government spokesperson, while police officials said the incident may be cause by a misunderstanding.
“Let me first find out from our CID (Criminal Investigation Department) the information they have about this incident because I was not here. But I believe it was not a big issue. It may have just been a misunderstanding,” police spokesman Col. James Monday Enoka Colonel told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
Several accounts from multiple sources claimed that the shots were actually from disgruntled soldiers who had arrived in Juba after deserting their military bases due to months of underpayment from the areas of deployments in the frontlines in Jonglei state where they were fighting rebels.
“It seems there are many of the disgruntled soldiers roaming the towns these days,” a top level presidential security officer, told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
The security official added reports he received from colleagues about the shooting did not indicate the cause.
He also denied reports claiming four soldiers have been killed but acknowledged that many government soldiers were deployed on the airport road to provide protection to the infrastructure and restore law and order.
“There is no problem at the moment. It actually did not take long time. But because the past experience, it was taken a big development,” the officer further said.