A senior South Sudanese army officer implicated in the shooting deaths of four civilians has succumbed to his injuries and died at a hospital in Juba.
A source in the office of President Salva Kiir who is not authorized to speak to the media said Lual Okook Wol Kiir died from injuries he sustained during a gunfight involving his bodyguards and civilians on the outskirts of the city on Wednesday.
At least three other people died in the shootout in Juba’s Sherikat neighborhood. Residents say the shootings occurred when Wol Kiir, a distant cousin of the president, ordered soldiers and police to open fire on demonstrators.
Demonstrator Juuk Thiong Juuk said Wol Kiir, who was also known as Lual Marine, was trying to steal land from local residents.
“Lual Marine is trying to grab land from the civilians and when the citizens try to reopen their businesses, Lual Marine came with his soldiers and immediately started shooting civilians and in that moment he shot dead two men and one women and other five are injured,” Juuk told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program.
Shortly after the shootings took place, some Sherikat residents took to the streets to demonstrate. They chanted slogans condemning President Kiir, burned tires, and blocked the Nimule highway, a major route leading into and out of Juba.
A statement released by presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny on Wednesday called the killings a “very serious criminal act” and said the perpetrators “must be punished.”
Lual Marine was arrested by authorities before he died.
South Sudan Army spokesman Major General Lul Ruai Koang said there was a “misunderstanding” in Sherikat “and it got out of hand and as a result, some shooting ensued between him and his bodyguards on one hand and civilians on the other.”
Police and soldiers were seen using live bullets to disperse demonstrators in Juba Wednesday.
Resident Garang Abraham said he witnessed an officer shoot another demonstrator.
“We were coming together and he got shot by the police. He is wounded here on the leg from inside,” Abraham told South Sudan in Focus. Abraham said the demonstrator later died.
Demonstrator Amer Majur said she and other Sherikat residents are angry over the killings.
“Today, the government is killing our brother. They are killing our sisters. Very innocent, very innocent lady, who making their tea to help their kids and the one that killed them is government of South Sudan,” Majur told South Sudan in Focus.
Ateny’s statement said, “The President of the Republic urges restraint from the families and community of the victims.”