(MENAFN - Saudi Press Agency) Nearly a week of fighting threatens to drag the world's newest country into an ethnic civil war, just two years after it won independence from Sudan, with strong support from successive U.S. administrations,
Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting that pits loyalists of President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, against those of his former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer who was sacked in July and is accused by the government of trying to seize power.
Fighting that spread from the capital, Juba, has now reached vital oilfields and the government said a senior army commander had defected to Machar in the oil-producing Unity State.
After meetings with African mediators on Friday, Kiir's government said on its Twitter feed that it was willing to hold talks with any rebel group. The United States is also sending an envoy to help with talks.
Information Minister Michael Makuei told Reuters that an army divisional commander in Unity State, John Koang, had defected and joined Machar, who had named him the governor of the state.