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South Sudan 'coup' raises U.S. concern

Clashes broke out in a barracks close to the center of the capital Juba shortly before midnight and spread across the city

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Washington said Monday it is monitoring closely an eruption of fierce fighting in the fledgling nation of South Sudan which President Salva Kiir denounced as an attempted coup.

"We call on all parties to resolve their differences through peaceful democratic means, not through the use of violence," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

"It's a very fluid situation. We're going to keep monitoring it. Our paramount concern is the security and safety of U.S. citizens abroad."

Clashes broke out in a barracks close to the center of the capital Juba shortly before midnight and spread across the city, diplomats and witnesses said. They said heavy machine guns and mortars were used.

Kiir blamed troops loyal to his arch-rival, former vice president Riek Machar, who was sacked from the government in July. He branded him a "prophet of doom" and vowed to bring him to justice.

Oil-rich but poor, 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.

The U.S. has been one of the biggest supporters of the world's newest nation, and has watched with increasing alarm its early struggles.