April 17, 2014 (JUBA) – The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has strongly condemned Thursday’s alleged attack by armed youth on it base in Jonglei state capital Bor, which left at least 30 people dead.
- South Sudan’s Jonglei state was the scene of fierce fighting after conflict erupted in the country in mid-December, with thousands of civilians seeking shelter at the UN base in the capital, Bor (Photo: Reuters)
In a statement issued on Thursday, UNMISS said it was as yet unable to confirm the number of dead and injured.
The UN base, housing an Indian contingent of peacekeepers, was reportedly overrun by armed youths from the Dinka Bor tribe, who opened fire on civilians indiscriminately, including women and children.
The site is currently providing protection to about 5,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), predominantly from the ethnic Nuer group to which rebel leader Riek Machar hails.
“The UN Mission in South Sudan strongly condemns today’s (Thursday’s) deadly and unprovoked attack on its base in Bor,” the statement, extended to Sudan Tribune reads in part.
The agency has called on South Sudan’s leadership to uphold its responsibilities to protect all South Sudanese civilians and maintain public order.
“UNMISS additionally calls on all national, state and local authorities and forces to protect all civilians, to ensure that the inviolability of United Nations premises is protected, and to take effective measures to prevent a recurrence of such attacks,” the statement said.
The raid at the UN base reportedly occurred after armed local youth entered the site to deliver a protest letter calling for IDPs to be relocated from the area.
It’s believed protesters were angered after witnessing the celebrations of IDPs after the Unity state capital, Bentiu, was recaptured by pro-Machar rebels on Monday.
However, youths claimed they were simply responding after being fired on from the UNMISS camp.
UNMISS has disputed these accounts, saying the armed mob forced its way inside despite repeated warning shots fired by its forces.
“The armed mob forced entry into the site and opened fire on the internally displaced persons sheltering inside the base. UNMISS peacekeepers returned fire, and the mob retreated from the base,” the agency said in its statement.
The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, issued a statement on Thursday, saying any attack on UN peacekeepers constitutes a war crime.
“This attack on a location where civilians are being protected by the United Nations is a serious escalation,” the statement said.
“The secretary- general expresses his condolences to the bereaved families and pledges all possible support to those wounded in this attack,” it adds.
Medical sources have put the death toll from the incident at about 30, but this has not yet to be officially confirmed
Bior Kuer, a health worker at Bor hospital, said 14 people were being treated after being wounded in the attack, while three other people from the Dinka Bor tribe had died.
“These youth tell us that some bodies are still lying outside the UNMISS camp, but we don’t know how many,” said Kuer.
There are conflicting reports emerging about the incident, with UNMISS health officer William Oyual putting the death toll at 20
“Very many people are injured and the death toll could rise anytime,” he told Sudan Tribune by phone from the UNMISS base.
Kuer claimed youths came under fire from UNMISS, while Oyual said armed elements had overwhelmed peacekeepers and forced their way into the site.
“The UNMISS soldiers ran for their protection and these youth entered [the] POC (Protection of Civilians site) and began shooting at people,” said Oyual.
Two UNMISS peacekeepers also sustained injuries during the incident.
In December, the UNMISS camp in Akobo, a Nuer area, also came under attack, leading to the death of two peacekeepers and 20 civilians of Dinka origin.
President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, has accused his former deputy, Machar, of staging a coup in mid-December that kick-started the four-month-old conflict.
Machar has denied the claims, but admits heading a rebellion comprised largely of defected army personnel and armed Nuer civilians.
A political power struggle between Kiir and Machar erupted in violence on the 15 December 2013, with loyalties in the country dividing along tribal lines.
The South Sudanese army (SPLA) has accused Sudan’s feared Arab Janjaweed militia of supporting rebels in Bentiu following the strategic oil-rich town’s recapture earlier this week.
The latest round of violence has shattered a tenuous ceasefire deal between South Sudan’s warring parties, negotiated during peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.