South Sudanese forces tighten security after gunmen killed SPLA-IO officer
South Sudanese security forces have stepped up security measures in and around the capital, Juba, after gunmen, reportedly to be members of the Military Intelligence (MI), killed an officer and a guard of top military commander of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO).
Lt. Colonel George Gismala, eye witnesses said, was shot while seated and smoking shisha at a tea place in Kator residential area at around 11:20am.
A government military source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed in statements toSudan Tribune that Colonel Gismala was killed by members of the MI. It was not clear why the officer was targeted.
The incident sparked panic and uncertainty among residents, some of whom said had witnessed the shootings.
Exact circumstances under which Colonel Gismala was shot dead remain unclear. Neither the SPLA nor SPLA-IO military spokespersons have come out to make a public statement on what transpired and the measures being put in place to diffuse tension.
Also, residents in the area told Sudan Tribune they witnessed the shooting but did not know what sparked it. The body of the dead was later on seen being carried onto a vehicle of those who shot him and took it away.
Late George, a relative to General Martin Kenyi who is a senior military commander of the SPLA-IO, defected from President Salva Kiir’s government two years ago and was promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel by the armed opposition faction. He previously served as Military Intelligence (MI) officer in the government at the rank of Captain before his defection to the SPLA-IO.
Some Eye witnesses claimed the deceased was shot dead after engaging in a discussion with members of national security at a tea place over the issue of the delay of the establishment of cantonment sites as well as the continued presence of additional government soldiers and security personnel inside Juba, despite transitional security arrangements recommending a limited number of joint force to be in the town.
Bodyguards of General Martin Kenyi, another high ranking armed opposition figure, were also shot at, resulting in injury, one of whom remains in critical condition.
Attackers were not yet identified by names and no arrest was made, although the body of the deceased was reportedly carried to a military base in Juba.
In an attempt to control the situation, government soldiers and plain cloth security personnel were seen patrolling key streets in the town in what residents described as efforts to impose security measures to avoid another flare up.
Police spokesperson told Sudan Tribune on Sunday that a tighter partnership between police, defence and security forces and the population would ensure “the best possible intelligence can be put to use.”
“There is nothing. People should not panic. The presence of the security forces on the street is to strengthen the human and material resources of all our defence and security forces to adapt to new challenges. We are living in an unprecedented situation, which requires us to be civil-minded and much more vigilant,” said Brigadier General Daniel Justin Boulo, when reached to comment on the development.
He called on residents to notify police authorities and security officers of the presence of unknown people in their neighbourhoods, especially those in unusual and suspicious activities.
This comes after a similar incident occurred last month when members of national security opened fire at the bodyguards of the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, in Juba.
Also unknown gunmen fired guns near the resident of Machar at Jebel Kujur on Saturday night, but his forces did not return fire.
The series of incidents have received mixed reactions from the citizens, with some asserting that the incidents were politically motivated to send out a message to the people that anti-peace elements in the government are not ready for peace and are therefore working everything possible to trigger a return to war.
Juba residents say there are fears of growing insecurity situation in the capital.