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Thousands flee as heavy fighting erupts in South Sudan capital

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Thousands of people have fled renewed heavy fighting in South Sudan’s capital as former rebels and government soldiers exchanged fire amid fears of a slide back into full-blown conflict in the five-year-old nation.

The fights started on the western borders of Juba where both previous rebels and government soldiers have bases at the foot of the Jebel Kujur Mountain, close to a UN camp.

Fighting was heard in several other parts of the city throughout the day, including in Gudele — where rebel leader turned Vice President Riek Machar is headquartered — and central Tongping near the international airport, with gunfire intensifying and subsiding at different times.

Forces loyal to Mr Machar said his residence was attacked by the President’s troops.

Regional leaders, including from Kenya and Sudan, have urged an end to the fighting and plan to hold a special summit in Nairobi on Monday.

The renewed conflict was condemned by the UN and others, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying he was “shocked and appalled”.

It pressed South Sudan’s neighbours to help end renewed fighting in the capital, asking for additional peacekeepers.

In a unanimous declaration, the UN Security Council’s 15 member countries also demanded that Mr Kiir and Mr Machar “do their utmost to control their respective forces, urgently end the fighting and prevent the spread of violence”.

It called for the two rivals to “genuinely commit themselves to the full and immediate implementation of the peace agreement, including the permanent ceasefire and redeployment of military forces from Juba”.

It also urged accountability, warning of sanctions.

Speaking on Sunday afternoon, South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei blamed the former rebels for the fighting and insisted the Government was “in full control of Juba” even as shooting could be heard in parts of the city.

Mr Makuei said President Salva Kiir would call for a ceasefire later in the day.

“We are expecting his Excellency the President will issue a unilateral ceasefire, binding on his forces. We hope the First Vice President Riek Machar will follow suit,” he said.

The violence comes a day after the world’s youngest country marked its fifth independence anniversary, and is a fresh blow to a peace deal that has failed to end the civil war that broke out in December 2013.

City residents hunkered down or began fleeing their homes as the UN reported the use of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and “heavy ground assault weaponry”.

AFP

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Tourist arrivals jumped 73.5 percent in July

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KATHMANDU — Tourist arrivals to Nepal jumped 73.5 percent in the month of July, according to statistics released by Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).

The NTB said that this increment is because of a sharp increase in the number of travellers from countries like India, China, the US and the UK. The growth in the numbers has also been attributed to Indian pilgrims visiting Mount Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet, via Nepal.

The statistics show that Nepal received a whopping 73,285 international tourists in July—a time of the year that is considered to be an off-season for tourists due to the monsoons. With July’s figures, the number of foreign tourists visiting Nepal in the first seven months (January–July) of 2018 reached 593,299, which is an increase of 18 percent as compared to the same period last year.

Total 18,385 Indian tourists visited Nepal via air transport, which is up 80.4 percent compared to the same period last year.

After India, Nepal received the highest number of visitors from China. The Chinese tourist numbers have more than doubled to 13,123 in the month of July. This is a 125.4 percent growth in comparison to the arrivals in the same month last year.

Overall arrivals from SAARC countries registered a growth of 66 percent, in comparison to the same month last year. However, arrivals from Bangladesh declined by nine percent. Arrivals from rest of the Asian countries have also recorded a robust growth of 86.2 percent.

Visitors from Japan and South Korea to Nepal also increased by 36 percent and 21.9 percent respectively.

Likewise, an overall increase of 54.1 percent in July has been recorded from European source markets. However, arrivals from Austria declined by 72.6 percent.

The number of visitors from the US and Canada have also grown by 79.6 percent and 73.3 percent respectively.

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