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South Sudan Fighting Now Targets Civilians


Slain bodies of civilians killed in renewed attacks lie along a road in Bentiu, Unity state of South Sudan, April 20, 2014.

Crisis took an even more serious turn with the targeting of civilians by armed individuals in recent attacks in the towns of Bentiu and Bor.

The political crisis in South Sudan, which has already resulted in the deaths of thousands and displacement of one million more people, took an even more serious turn with the targeting of civilians by armed individuals in recent attacks in the towns of Bentiu and Bor.

Forces opposed to the government of President Salva Kiir on April 15 and 16 over-ran Bentiu, the capital of Unity State, and killed an estimated 200 or more, including women and children, while injuring at least 400 others. Many of the killings are reported to have been motivated solely by the individual’s ethnic origin. While seeking shelter in a local hospital, mosque and church, the victims were separated and killed according to their ethnic origin, according to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

The violence was further incited by a local FM radio station broadcast declaring that certain ethnic groups should not stay in Bentiu, and even calling on men from one community to commit sexual violence against women from another. Following the violence in Bentiu, an armed mob attacked as a reprisal the U.N. compound in Bor, the capital of Jonglei State, and killed dozens of internally displaced civilians who had sheltered there hoping to escape the violence.

The United States strongly condemns the attacks in both Bentiu and Bor. We also call again on both the government of South Sudan and the armed opposition forces to end this cycle of violence and restore law and order. Both sides must fully respect UNMISS’s mission to protect civilians. Both armed groups must also respect the human rights of the civilian population. The deliberate targeting of civilians or the United Nations is unacceptable and those responsible for such acts must be held accountable.

An African Union commission has been set up to investigate human rights abuses committed during the four-month-old conflict and will travel to South Sudan and begin its work soon. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s monitoring and verification mechanism is already investigating the Bentiu and Bor attacks and will be submitting their reports to the IGAD Special Envoys shortly. We call on the government and opposition forces to cooperate with the investigations and we look forward to its report.
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