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‘Atmosphere of fear’ in South Sudan town of Bor, says UN

BBC

A UN official in South Sudan has spoken of an atmosphere of fear and desperation as violence escalates.

Humanitarian Co-ordinator Toby Lanzer told the BBC about summary executions in Bor, in the restive state of Jonglei that has fallen to rebels.

He said that as well as people seeking refuge at the UN base there were many more hiding out in the bush.

Clashes broke out between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and others backing his former deputy a week ago.

Meanwhile the US said it had evacuated its citizens from Bor.

Four US service personnel were wounded on Saturday when their aircraft were shot at, delaying an evacuation operation and prompting US President Barack Obama to consider further action.

“As I monitor the situation in South Sudan, I may take further action to support the security of US citizens, personnel and property, including our embassy, in South Sudan,” he said in a letter to Congress leaders on Sunday.

Earlier the South Sudanese army confirmed that Bentiu, the capital of oil-rich Unity State, had also fallen to troops supporting former Vice-President Riek Machar.

“Bentiu is not in our hands,” said military spokesman Philip Aguer.

President Salva Kiir has accused Mr Machar of attempting a coup.

‘Hundreds of thousands’

Mr Lanzer, who spent several days in Bor, said the problem of people seeking refuge was growing daily.

“I’m quite concerned that in a few days’ time we won’t be talking about tens of thousands, we’ll be talking about hundreds of thousands directly affected,” he said.

“It’s really very moving to see people just asking: ‘Can you please keep me alive?'”

Mr Lanzer added that there was a danger not just from fighting by conventional armies but from groups of youths who he said were simply “out of control”.

The government says it is trying to retake Bor, and the state has seen fierce fighting in recent days.

Two Indian peacekeepers and at least 11 civilians were killed in an attack on a UN compound in Akobo, Jonglei, on Thursday.

UN relocation

On Saturday Mr Machar said his forces controlled Unity State – whose oilfields are crucial to South Sudan’s economy.

Those reports could not be independently confirmed.

However, on Sunday Col Aguer told reporters: “Bentiu is in the hands of a commander who has declared support for Machar.”

He added that the number of people or wounded in the fighting was unclear.

Unity, a state on the border with Sudan, produces much of South Sudan’s oil, which accounts for more than 95% of the country’s economy.

Also on Sunday, the UN mission Unmiss said it had begun relocating staff from the capital Juba to the Ugandan city of Entebbe.

Juba has been tense since the unrest began last weekend.

Resident Mogga Lado told the BBC: “I was buying some things for my children in the market on Tuesday when I saw two people dressed in normal civilian clothes shot dead in front of me by people in military clothing.

“I don’t know if they were the army or rebels. I didn’t wait to see.”

Mr Machar told the BBC on Saturday that he was prepared to negotiate with the government if politicians arrested this week were released and transferred to a neutral country such as Ethiopia.

Mr Kiir also agreed to negotiations after meeting African mediators on Friday.

President Kiir, a member of the majority Dinka ethnic group, sacked Mr Machar, who is from the Nuer community, in July.

The violence which broke out in Juba last weekend has since spread, pitting gangs of Nuer and Dinka against each other.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Sunday that he was “very concerned at the situation in South Sudan”.

He added that it was “vital that all leaders urge restraint on their supporters and commit to a political resolution of their differences”.

Source:BBC

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