South Sudan crisis: Deadly attack on UN base condemned

Foreigners are evacuated by plane from South Sudan A number of countries have begun evacuating their nationals from South Sudan

The UN mission to South Sudan has condemned Thursday's attack on its base in which two Indian peacekeepers and at least 11 civilians were killed.

Unmiss said the perpetrators of the "heinous crime" in Akobo, Jonglei state, must be brought to justice.

A similar attack is feared at another UN base where several thousand armed youths are reported to have gathered.

Clashes began in South Sudan when President Salva Kiir accused his ex-deputy of a failed coup a week ago.

Start Quote

Juba is becoming very, very unsafe”

End Quote Ayaga Civil servant

At least 500 people are believed to have died since last weekend.

An estimated 34,000 people have taken refuge at UN compounds.

The unrest has pitted gangs from the Nuer ethnic group of former Vice President Riek Machar against Dinkas - the majority group to which Mr Kiir belongs.

A number of countries have begun evacuating their nationals. Britain was sending another flight on Friday, a day after a military transport plane evacuated 182 people, including 53 Britons, to Uganda.

Uganda has sent a small contingent of troops to help pull out its nationals.

A US plane was also due to take Americans out of the country. And China's National Petroleum Company was evacuating oil workers to Juba.

'Unjustified' attack

France's ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, said there were fears of another assault as armed youths gathered near the UN compound in the town of Bor, in Jonglei, on Friday.

The base shelters some 14,000 civilians.

Earlier, Unmiss said two Indian peacekeepers were killed on and one injured on Thursday when some 2,000 armed youths believed to be of Nuer ethnicity surrounded the base in Akobo and opened fire "in the direction of Sudanese civilians of the Dinka ethnic group who had sought refuge in the compound".

The remains of two Indian UN peacekeepers are transported for a memorial ceremony in Juba. Photo: 20 December 2013 A memorial ceremony for the two killed Indian peacekeepers will be held in Juba on Saturday
Civilians walking inside the Unmiss compound in Bor on 18 December. Thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting
Medic peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan treat civilians at their compound in the outskirts of Juba. UN medics have been treating some of those injured

Unmiss said at least 11 South Sudanese civilians also died. It had earlier put the death toll at 20.

The BBC's Anne Soy says there are reports that opposition leaders are calling for President Kiir to stand down before talks can commence

Unmiss said all its personnel - along with civilians and members of non-governmental organisations - had now been airlifted from the base.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday in an Unmiss compound at the airport in the capital Juba.

It is one of several areas where clashes have occurred.

'Awash with weapons'

Also on Friday, President Kiir told African mediators he agreed to "unconditional dialogue" to stop the violence.

He made the commitment during a meeting with foreign ministers from Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

Who is Riek Machar?

Former South Sudan Vice-President Riek Machar (file image)
  • Central figure in Sudanese and South Sudanese politics for three decades
  • Ethnic Nuer - second largest group in South Sudan
  • Senior southern rebel SPLM commander but split in 1990s
  • After 2005 peace deal appointed vice-president, retaining the post after independence in 2011 until his dismissal in July 2013

President Kiir has blamed the violence on soldiers who support Mr Machar. Mr Machar, who was sacked by Mr Kiir in July, has denied trying to stage a coup. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Jonglei state has witnessed some of the worst violence since South Sudan became independent in 2011, with hundreds killed in periodic clashes between rival heavily-armed ethnic militias sparked by cattle-rustling.

Following decades of conflict, weapons - such as machine guns - are widely available in much of South Sudan.

Forces commanded by Gen Peter Gadet, who is loyal to Mr Machar, are said to be in control of the town of Bor - the capital of the Jonglei state.

Gen Gadet launched his campaign after reports of his fellow Nuers being killed.

South Sudan's government insists the clashes are over power and politics, not between ethnic groups.

The oil-rich country has struggled to achieve a stable government since becoming independent.

Map showing distribution of ethnic groups Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Map showing oil fields and resources Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
Satellite image showing green south and brown north The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Map showing distribution of water and sanitation facilities In the Sudanese states of Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In South Sudan, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of South Sudanese have no toilet facilities.
Map showing education levels in South Sudan Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.
Map showing % distribution of food insecurity by state Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan depend on food aid. The UN says about 2.8m people in South Sudan required food aid in 2013.

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