More than 200 people sheltering inside mosque killed after rebels ousted government troops, according to UN investigators
By Mike Pflanz,
HUNDREDS of civilians, including women and children, were massacred in ethnic violence when rebels seized an oil-rich town in South Sudan, in the single worst atrocity since the conflict began.
Armed troops loyal to the former vice-president Riek Machar, swept into Bentiu and systematically shot dead foreigners and people from enemy tribes. Others from supportive groups were led to safety.
The exact number of people who died in the massacre remains unclear, but at least 200 were killed in the Kali-Ballee mosque in the capital of Unity state, and 400 wounded, the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) said in a statement.
Mr Machar was dismissed from office by President Salva Kiir on July 23, 2013 and has been accused of sowing violence in South Sudan and organising coup d’état plots on the government.
His Nuer people are traditional rivals for power in what is now South Sudan with Mr Kiir’s Dinkas, and he accuses the president of sidelining his tribesmen. He has said he would contest Mr Kiir at South Sudan’s next elections.
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The U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said that its human rights investigators confirmed that rebels “searched a number of places where hundreds of South Sudanese and foreign civilians had taken refuge and killed hundreds of the civilians after determining their ethnicity or nationality.”
The U.N. mission, known as UNMISS, strongly condemned the targeted killings on April 15-16 and the use of Radio Bentiu FM to broadcast hate speech.
While some rebel commanders broadcast calls for unity, “others broadcast hate messages declaring that certain ethnic groups should not stay in Bentiu and even calling on men from one community to commit vengeful sexual violence against women from another community,” UNMISS said in a statement.
U.N. peacekeepers rescued more than 500 civilians from Bentiu hospital and other places and escorted thousands more as they walked to the U.N. base. The U.N. said it is currently protecting more than 12,000 civilians at its Bentiu base.
Around the country the United Nations is protecting tens of thousands of civilians who have sought refuge at its bases.
After the rebels seized Bentiu, Dinka residents of Bor town in Jonglei state attacked a U.N. base on Thursday where about 5,000 people, mostly Nuer, were sheltering. The mob of armed civilians pretended to be peaceful protesters delivering a petition to the United Nations before opening fire in the base.
Some 58 people were killed and another 98 injured, including two Indian peacekeepers, the U.N. mission said. (Additional report from Reuters)
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