(Adds comment from U.S. State Department, paragraphs 9-13)
UNITED NATIONS, April 17 A mob of armed
civilians pretending to be peaceful protesters delivering a
petition to the United Nations in South Sudan forced their way
into a U.N. base sheltering some 5,000 civilians on Thursday and
opened fire, the world body said.
A U.N. source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at
least 20 people had been killed and 60 wounded in the attack on
the base in Bor in northern Jonglei state, where there are
Indian and South Korean U.N. peacekeepers. The source warned
that the death toll was likely to rise.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said dozens of civilians
were wounded, but the exact number of people killed or wounded
had not yet been confirmed. Two U.N. peacekeepers were wounded
repelling the armed mob, he said.
More than 1 million people have fled their homes since
fighting erupted in the world's youngest country in December
between troops backing President Salva Kiir and soldiers loyal
to his sacked vice president, Riek Machar.
Thousands of people have been killed and tens of thousands
have sought refuge at U.N. bases around the country.
"This attack on a location where civilians are being
protected by the United Nations is a serious escalation,"
Dujarric said. "The assailants - a mob of armed civilians - came
to the base under the guise of peaceful demonstrators intending
to present a petition to UNMISS (the U.N. peacekeeping
"The armed mob forced entry on to the site and opened fire
on the internally displaced persons sheltering inside the base,"
he said. "At the time of the attack there were some 5,000
displaced civilians ... inside the base."
Dujarric said the wounded were being treated at the U.N.
The U.S. State Department condemned the attack.
"We reiterate our call upon the Government of South Sudan to
end the violence and to fulfill its primary responsibility to
maintain law and order and provide full support for the UNMISS
mission to protect civilians," State Department spokeswoman
Marie Harf said in a statement.
Her statement also condemned recent attacks and
counter-attacks in the town of Bentiu by anti-government and
pro-government forces in violation of a Jan. 23 Cessation of
"The deliberate targeting of civilians during these attacks
is unacceptable and those responsible for such acts must be held
accountable," Harf said.
The statement called on both sides in the conflict to honor
the Jan. 23 agreement and enter into an inclusive political
South Sudanese rebels said on Tuesday they have seized
Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity state, and warned oil
firms to pack up and leave within a week.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 under an agreement to
end decades of war.
The current conflict has disrupted oil production, which
provides a hefty portion of the government's revenue.
(Reporting and writing by Michelle Nichols; Additional
reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Leslie
Adler, Andrew Hay and Cynthia Osterman)