Addis Ababa — The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has said the killings in Bor, south Sudan, amount to "war crimes."
Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, was taken by forces loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar on Thursday. The town has witnessed the worst violence since fighting broke out last week between rival factions in the South Sudan Liberation Army (SPLA).
Thousands of people fled the town after it fell into rebel hands with the United Nations warning of potential humanitarian crisis. Forces loyal to president Kiir are reported to be planning an assault to retake the town.
The AU said in a statement Saturday that Dr Zuma was "extremely saddened by the killing of innocent civilians and the United Nations peace keepers in Bor, Jonglie State of South Sudan."
The statement said Zuma considers the attack war crimes.
"She [Zuma] condemns these killings as war crimes, and extends AU's heartfelt condolences to their families and the government of India, as well as the UN Secretariats."
Two Indian peacekeepers were killed last week when rebels from the Nuer ethic group, the second largest in South Sudan after the Dinka, attacked the Aboko UN base.
The United Nations humanitarian chief in South Sudan Toby Lanzer told Agence France Presse (AFP) that he is particularly worried about Jonglei state.
Lanzer had just returned from a trip to Jonglei's main city of Bor, where he said "a battle... looms" after various reports of groups mobilising.
The UN is "fortifying the camp in Bor, making sure there is no repeat of Akobo.... But, as in Akobo, if there are few peacekeepers inside and 2,000 (fighters) outside, there's little we can do."
Lanzer said he was also concerned about the security situation in South Sudan's two oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile and, increasingly, Lakes state
The South Sudan government said that about 500 people have been killed since violence broke out on Sunday of last week.
World leaders, the United Nations, the African Union and foreign ministers from the East African have asked for the warring parties in the conflict to seek for a political solution.
President Kiir has said he is willing to talk peace with Machar. Machar has also expressed willingness to talk to Kiir but on condition that he releases detainees arrested in connection with the alleged coup attempt.