Wed, Mar 29, 2017 - Page 7 News List

S Sudan rebels blame government for killings

Reuters, JUBA

An aerial photograph taken on Thursday last week shows burned homes after an attack by armed men in South Sudan.

Photo: Reuters

Rebels on Monday said that the South Sudan government should be held responsible for the killing of six aid workers, the deadliest single assault on humanitarian staff in a three-year-old civil war.

The government said it was too early to say who was behind Saturday’s ambush.

A UN official said it could amount to a war crime.

The six were ambushed as they were traveling from the capital, Juba, toward the town of Pibor through remote territory largely under government control, but fought over by both sides and plagued by militias and other armed groups, the UN said.

The UN said the six were Kenyans and South Sudanese who worked for the non-governmental Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organization.

It called on those in positions of power in South Sudan to stop the violence.

“It will be counterproductive at this stage for anybody to rush for judgement without first allowing the truth to be established,” South Sudanese Deputy Minister of Information Akol Paul Kordit told reporters in Juba.

Rebel fighters loyal to former South Sudanese vice president Riek Machar said the government should be held accountable as the killings took place on its territory.

“We don’t have forces in that area. Instead it’s the government forces and militias who control that area,” said Lam Paul Gabriel, spokesman for the rebel SPLM-IO forces.

UN humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said in Geneva that the killings could constitute a war crime and must be investigated and prosecuted.

“They are not traveling with escorts, or things like that, they are aid workers, they come unarmed themselves, essentially they have only their humanitarian principles to hold up as a shield,” Laerke told Reuters TV. “All these parties to this conflict must understand that they are providing aid in a neutral, impartial, independent manner, regardless of the areas that are under control of the various parties to the factions.”

“They have only one goal and that is to provide life-saving relief to people who are in desperate need,” he said.

Pibor is the main town in Boma State, a vast underdeveloped territory bordering Ethiopia rocked by violence between competing clans this month.

At least 79 aid workers have been killed since South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s government forces clashed with Machar’s men in December 2013. A long-running rivalry between the two men has split the country along ethnic lines.

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