JUBA, Sudan, Sep 29 (Reuters) Thousands of soldiers supporting a police crackdown on illegal weapons brought South Sudan's capital Juba to a halt today, officials said.
''We have deployed something going on to 3,000 troops,'' said army spokesman Kuol Diem Kuol. ''They are there to block the roads but not to search houses -- that is (for) the police.'' Crime has become rife in the city since it became the seat of a newly formed semi-autonomous south Sudanese government under a north-south peace deal in January 2005.
Streets usually bustling with traffic and roadside traders were empty by 1230 ist except for police cars and truckloads of armed soldiers.
Kuol said the order for the operation was issued on Friday by the president of the State High Court.
''There are murder cases, there are rapes at night, there are a lot of problems related to illegal arms,'' said Kuol.
Southern Sudan's interior minister, Paul Mayom, said cars and people were being allowed to move in Juba, although they would be subject to searches. Some residents said they had been told to return home.
He said only police, soldiers and special protection units for top officials would be armed.
REUTERS SYU KP1618