At least 58 people were killed and more than 100 others wounded in Thursday's attack on a UN base in South Sudan sheltering thousands of displaced civilians, a U.N. official said Friday.
“Forty-eight bodies, including children, women, men, have been recovered from inside the base. The bodies of 10 attackers have been found outside the base. The total death toll is 58, but that could increase as over 100 people were wounded, some of them very seriously,” the top U.N. official in the country, Toby Lanzer, told AFP.
Initially, U.S. envoy to the U.N. Samantha Power, who strongly condemned the “brazen, inhuman attack on unarmed civilians,” said the gunmen killed at least 20 people and wounded 70 others when they stormed the U.N. base.
The United Nations had previously said dozens of civilians from a rival tribe had been wounded in the “unprovoked” attack before peacekeepers fought them off.
The Associated Press reported that an angry mob of South Sudanese youths attacked the U.N. base in order to harm members of an ethnic minority sheltering inside.
Peacekeepers were forced to open fire, amid rampaging violence that killed at least 12 people, officials there said.
The U.N. mission in South Sudan condemned the “unprovoked attack” and called for a full investigation into the “heinous murders.”
The attackers forced their way into a camp in Bor in Jonglei state where some 5,000 ethnic Nuers have sought safety since fighting in South Sudan broke out in mid-December.
“The assailants, a mob of armed civilians, came to the base under the guise of peaceful demonstrators intending to present a petition ... The armed mob forced entry on to the site and opened fire on the internally displaced persons sheltering inside the base,” the Associated Press quoted U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, at the U.N. headquarters in New York, as saying.
Maj. Major Kuol Mayen Deng of South Sudan’s military said that Ugandan troops stationed in the region are now protecting the U.N. base.
Meanwhile, Deng said at least 12 people were killed. Two U.N. peacekeepers were injured in the attack, according to a U.N. statement.
“The violent attack happened despite repeated warning shots fired by U.N. peacekeepers. The armed mob forced entry onto the site and opened fire on the internally displaced person sheltering inside,” the U.N. said.
Bor has changed hands four times between the military and rebels. The rebels back former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer who was fired from his office in July by President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the attack on a site where civilians are being protected by the United Nations. Ban said that any attack on U.N. peacekeepers “constitutes a war crime,” said U.N. spokesman Dujarric.
Ateny Wek, South Sudan’s presidential spokesman, said the government was still receiving information about the attack. He called it a “very, very bad situation.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that up to 1 million people face potential famine-level hunger because of the fighting.
The violence has forced more than 1 million people in South Sudan to flee their homes. The planting season is under way but few are farming.
(With Reuters, AFP and Associated Press)