Clashes kill seven in South Sudan UN base

Clashes kill seven in South Sudan UN base
3 min read
18 February, 2016
Gun battles broke out at a UN peacekeeping base sheltering civilians in South Sudan killing at least seven people and injuring 40, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Thursday.
Over 47,700 people live inside the UN base in Malakal [AFP]

An outbreak of fighting at a UN peacekeeping base sheltering civilians in South Sudan has killed at least seven people and injured 40, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday.

Violence between the ethnic Dinka and Shilluk communities broke out overnight and continued into the day at the base in the northeast town of Malakal, he said.

The UN chief condemned the fighting and expressed concerns about the rise of ethnic violence in the conflict that has raged for more than two years.

Over 47,700 people live inside the Malakal base, among almost 200,000 civilians who have sought shelter behind the razor wire fences of eight UN bases across the country since civil war began in late 2013. No weapons are allowed on the bases.

The UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said peacekeepers fired tear gas to break up crowds in the crowded camp.

"Violence involving the use of small arms, machetes and other weapons broke out," UNMISS said in a statement.

Resident Jack Nhial, speaking from inside the UN base, said at least 12 people had been killed.

"They used Kalashnikovs and machine guns... the situation is still tense," Nhial said, adding the peacekeepers were now patrolling the base in tanks.

The UN mission in South Sudan has more than 12,000 peacekeepers with half of them deployed solely to protect the civilians in their bases.

It was not immediately clear who the gunmen were. Malakal is in government control, but frontlines with rebel areas are close by.

In the past, the UN has said attacks on its bases in South Sudan may constitute a war crime.

The UN mission in South Sudan has more than 12,000 peacekeepers with half of them deployed solely to protect the civilians in their bases.

In April 2014, gunmen killed at least 48 civilians when they opened fire on terrified civilians inside a UN base in the town of Bor. At least 10 attackers were also killed when UN troops fought back.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and over two million forced from their homes since the war began, pushing the world's youngest nation to the brink of famine.

Civil war erupted in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines.

Earlier this month Kiir named exiled rebel chief Machar as vice-president, as part of a repeatedly broken August peace deal.

Machar has yet to return to take up the post and fighting continues, with the conflict now involving multiple militia forces driven by local agendas or revenge, who pay little heed to paper peace deals.

Both the government and rebel sides have been accused of perpetrating ethnic massacres, recruiting and killing children and carrying out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to "cleanse" areas of their opponents.

Over 2.8 million people need aid, almost a quarter of the country, while in war zone northern areas 40,00 are being starved to death with aid blocked amid violence.