UNITED NATIONS, United States: Attackers stormed a UN base where civilians took refuge in South Sudan on Thursday, killing three Indian peacekeepers with other deaths feared, officials said.
The United Nations has lost contact with the base at Akobo in Jonglei state and the fate of more than 30 ethnic Dinka civilians sheltering there was also unknown, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told AFP.
“We have received reports of people killed and injured and are in the process of verifying,” said UN deputy secretary general Jan Eliasson who strongly condemned the attack.
The UN Security Council called emergency consultations for Friday on the mounting crisis in South Sudan where hundreds have been killed this week in battles between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar.
Three Indian peacekeepers were “targeted and killed” in the assault on Akobo, said India’s UN ambassador Asoke Mukerji. A minute’s silence for the soldiers was held at a UN meeting on peacekeeping in New York.
Forty other Indian peacekeepers and six UN police advisers were moved to safety at a nearby South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) camp, Haq said.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) would send 60 reinforcements and aircraft to pick up the peacekeepers. But they would only arrive Friday because Akobo is so difficult to get to, Haq said.
The attack was carried out by ethnic Nuer youths in a state which has long suffered from the deep ethnic divisions in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country.
The SPLA has split into factions supporting Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and Riek Machar, a Nuer.
UN forces are also protecting 14,000 civilians gathered around a base in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, and protecting the Bor airstrip, Haq said.
Bor fell to Riek Machar’s forces on Wednesday.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the capital, Juba, alone since clashes between rival factions of the Sudan Sudanese army erupted on Sunday.
Haq said there were unconfirmed reports of several students killed by security forces at Juba University on Wednesday.
Several hundred students have stayed on the university campus and asked for UN protection, the spokesman said.
Between 2,000 and 5,000 civilians have gathered in another part of Juba, the Kator complex, and had also requested help from UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) peacekeepers, Haq said.
More than 15,000 people have sought shelter at two UN and one World Food Programme compounds in Juba.
Haq said that food and water supplies and sanitation at the compounds are “overstrained.”
UN leader Ban Ki-moon was “appalled” by the attack on Akobo, said a separate statement released by the spokesman.
If reports of civilian deaths were confirmed “those responsible must be held accountable for their crimes,” Ban added in the statement.
“The future of this young nation requires its current leadership to do everything possible to prevent South Sudan descending into the chaos that would be such a betrayal of the ideals behind its long struggle for independence,” Ban said.
South Sudan became independent in 2011 after a two-decade civil war with Sudan in which more than two million people died.