Shots were fired at U.S. embassy vehicles Thursday night and personnel at the embassy in South Sudan were briefly ordered to shelter in place after gunfire and explosions Friday rocked the capital of Juba, including near the Presidential Palace, State Department officials told CNN.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the State Department is monitoring the situation closely. All embassy personnel have been accounted for and the embassy is taking “appropriate precautions,” Kirby said.
“At this time we do not have information regarding what led to the fighting today. We note that the President, First Vice President, and Vice President were in a meeting as the clashes started. The leaders have assured us of their commitment to resolve the tensions that have escalated in recent days. We are engaging them at the highest levels to urge them to secure an end to violence.”
On Thursday night, South Sudanese government security forces fired on two U.S. Embassy vehicles driving on a main road of Juba near the presidential compound, Kirby told CNN.
No one was hurt during the incident, which Kirby attributed to the embassy’s use of armored vehicles, along with other security measures.
“We do not believe our vehicles and personnel were specifically targeted and have no indication that the security forces were instructed to fire on our vehicles. However, we condemn this attack on U.S. embassy personnel,” Kirby said.
“We expect the government of South Sudan to investigate and hold accountable those responsible,” he added. “President Kiir personally assured our ambassador in Juba that he is taking this incident seriously and that his government will investigate it fully and hold those responsible to account, and meet South Sudan’s obligations to protect U.S. diplomatic personnel.”
Kirby said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” by reports of gunfire and explosions today in Juba, including near the Presidential Palace.
A travel warning has been in place since last December, warning U.S. citizens against travel to South Sudan. The U.S. embassy had already been working with reduced staffing due to “armed conflict” outside the capital. U.S. personnel are not allowed to have dependents under 21 with them in the country.