Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South Sudan Rebels Deny Killing Civilians in Bentiu

Photo: Tim McKulka/UN Photo
Soldiers of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) .

Rebels in South Sudan have denied U.N. accusations that they killed hundreds of people after taking control of a small town last week.

Rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said that rebel fighters were not responsible for the killings in Bentiu, and blamed others, including government forces.

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan said Monday that rebels killed more than 200 civilians and wounded more than 400 others at a local mosque where people had gone to escape the fighting.

It said the rebels, known as the SPLA in Opposition, escorted people of certain nationalities and ethnic groups to safety before killing the others.

A second rebel spokesman told VOA that rebels have captured another town in the region, Mayom. The U.N. mission in South Sudan confirmed there is fighting around the town but did not confirm that it is controlled by rebels.

South Sudan has been wracked by fighting since mid-December when the government accused a former vice president of leading a coup attempt.

A U.N. official in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, posted video Monday of several bodies lying along a dirt road in Bentiu. He said on Twitter that thousands of people have fled the town in recent days and that 22,000 civilians are now being protected at a local U.N. compound.

The U.N. mission condemned the killings, and mission chief Raisedon Zenenga said the perpetrators must be held accountable.

Ethnic violence and clashes between rebel and government forces in South Sudan have killed thousands of people in recent months and displaced an estimated 1 million from their homes. Peace talks in Ethiopia have made little progress.

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