U.S. worries about spiraling violence in South Sudan: State Department

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is alarmed by the violence in South Sudan, where ethnically motivated hate speech, the targeting of civilians and sexual violence is becoming widespread and cannot be ignored, the State Department said on Monday.

“The United States is alarmed by the violence in the Equatoria region of South Sudan and concerned it could quickly spiral out of control,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. “This situation is intolerable, will worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis.”

The United States has confirmed that more than 1,900 houses have been destroyed in the Central Equatoria of South Sudan since September, he said in a statement.

Toner said the government has also deployed at least 4,000 irregular ethnic militia soldiers to the area, “increasing the likelihood of more clashes with armed opposition groups and attacks against innocent civilians.”

The statement urged the international community to impose an arms embargo and targeted sanctions to help deter the violence in the world’s newest state.

The United States is struggling to secure the minimum number of votes needed for the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan amid U.N. warnings of possible genocide, diplomats said last month.

The State Department also urged the creation of a special court for South Sudan.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to these crimes, and must ensure that all those who order, incite or commit violence against civilians are held accountable,” Toner said.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis