31 December 2013

South Sudan: S. Sudan Rebels Refute UN Claims of "Mass Killings" in Unity State

Bentiu — South Sudan's army (SPLA) forces who rebelled against the government 10 days ago in Unity state have dismissed a United Nations report alleging that 75 Dinka soldiers were buried in a mass grave in the capital, Bentiu.

On 24 December a statement by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that a mass grave had been discovered in Unity state.

But Peter Riak Gew, a spokesperson for the rebels told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that the report was "not true" adding that "there is no mass grave here."

"The fighting that broke out within the army on 21 December killed only 15 soldiers", he clarified.

Gew criticized the Geneva-based Human Rights UN body for failing to conduct a proper investigation before making the claim. He further said Pillay should have spoken to the UN mission in the country to find out the real situation.

The rebel spokesperson said reports of a mass grave was "propaganda", adding that the UN team that visited Bentiu after the clashes had the correct information.

The Commander of the South Sudan army in Unity state, James Kaong, said he rebelled after members from the tank division attempted to kill him on the evening of 20 December.

Kaong has since also stated that reports of Nuer civilians being killed in Juba following an alleged coup attempt on 15 December was also part of his decision.

South Sudan's former Vice President Riek Machar, who is a Nuer, has denied allegation by President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, that the fighting in Juba was an attempted military coup.

The UN's humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, has estimated that over 1,000 people may have died in the violence that has now displace 180,000.

The SPLA have said that the fighting in the militarily barracks in Rubkotna, just outside the Unity state capital Bentiu, was between those loyal to President Kiir and those loyal to Machar.

After mass grave report by various media outlets, the UN mission in South Sudan said it received reports about the discovery of mass grave in the Unity state capital containing the bodies of 75 soldiers of Dinka ethnic origin.

"Latest reports suggest that this is an inflation of a skirmish resulting in about 15 fatalities, with details to be confirmed. UNMISS is therefore not in position to verify the existence of such a mass grave in Unity state thus far", said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.

The UN said it was deeply concerned over reports of extra-judicial killing in Juba and others locations in South Sudan and is investigating reports of such atrocities.

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