, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 16 – Kenya Airways has cancelled all flights to and from Juba in South Sudan due to the closure of the Juba Airport after fighting broke out on Sunday night through to Monday morning.
A statement from the airline’s Chief Operating Officer Ngunze Mbuvi stated that the flights affected include KQ350/351, KQ352/353 and KQ354/355
“Kenya Airways is closely monitoring the situation and provide updates as information is received from relevant authorities,” he said in a statement sent to newsrooms.
The closure came as heavy gunfire erupted overnight in the South Sudan capital, Juba amid mounting political tensions in the newly-independent nation.
Diplomats and security sources said the fighting appeared to have broken out in barracks close to the city centre shortly before midnight and involved the use of heavy machine guns and mortars.
Political tensions have been high in South Sudan in recent weeks, and earlier this month key leaders of the ruling party – the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – made a public challenge to President Salva Kiir and accused him of “dictatorial” behaviour.
South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth refused to comment on the unrest, but signalled that the president was still in charge.
Statements from the US and British embassies in Juba urged their nationals to avoid unnecessary movements.
The US embassy said there were “reports from multiple reliable sources of ongoing security incidents and sporadic gunfire in multiple locations across Juba”.
A security source said the fighting broke out shortly before midnight Sunday, apparently between rival factions in South Sudan’s armed forces.
South Sudan won its independence in 2011 after its people voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to split from the north and form a new nation.