Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his deep concern at the recent reports of renewed heavy fighting in South Sudan's north-eastern city of Malakal, as the United Nations Mission in the country (UNMISS), which yesterday conducted a patrol to the area, noted the town "has been looted and is generally empty of civilians."
UNMISS reported that it conducted a patrol to Malakal town, in Upper Nile state, to assess the situation, after the recent wave of fighting which began on 18 February, when pro-Government and opposition forces clashed near the Mission's compound. Simultaneously, inter-communal fighting broke out within the UNMISS compound, where 21,568 internally displaced persons are seeking refuge.
"The Mission observed Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in Opposition forces and armed youth on the streets as well as Opposition elements along with some South Sudanese National Police and other uniformed personnel at a former SPLA checkpoint," UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York, adding that UNMISS said that it counted more than 50 bodies in various parts of the town.
"The Mission patrol further noted that Malakal town had been looted and appeared to be generally empty of civilians."
Further, the spokesperson said the Mission reported sporadic firing this morning close to its Malakal compound. UNMISS responded by moving armoured vehicles to the spot. Two women, who sustained wounds, were admitted to the UN hospital inside the base.
Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that aid organizations are concerned by reports from civilians in Malakal that a number of people have been killed this week at the Malakal Teaching Hospital, including those who sought shelter at the facility.
Access to the hospital is currently restricted due to insecurity in the town and aid agencies have not yet been able to verify the reports first-hand.
In other news, in a statement issued by his spokesperson yesterday evening, the Secretary-General noted with deep concern the reports of renewed fighting in Malakal and "the catastrophic consequences for civilian populations." He urged all parties to abide by the ceasefire that was agreed in late January, to respect international humanitarian law, and ensure that civilians are protected.