UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N. peacekeeping base in South Sudan’s Jonglei State was attacked on Thursday and the United Nations has received reports that some people have been killed, Deputy U.N. Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said.
“Our base in Akobo, Jonglei State, was attacked and we have reports that lives are lost. We don’t have the details of that yet,” Eliasson told reporters.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq also spoke about the attack.
“The situation in Jonglei has deteriorated,” he said. “In Akobo, earlier today, where civilians have gathered, including 32 as of last night, (ethnic) Lou Nuer youth have reportedly forced an entry into the UNMISS Temporary Operating Base to reach to those civilians.”
“The U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) will try to extract unarmed U.N. personnel from Akobo while reinforcing the base in Akobo with additional 60 troops from Malakal tomorrow,” Haq added.
Haq said it was possible the civilians were the target of the attack, adding that he understood those civilians were of the Dinka ethnicity.
“There have been signs of different attacks by one of the (ethnic) groups against the other,” he said. “We of course have urged the government and indeed all sides to protect all civilians regardless of ethnicity.”
Haq added that U.N. peacekeepers were providing security to more than 14,000 civilians at its base in Bor.
South Sudanese government troops battled to regain control of a flashpoint town and sent forces to quell fighting in a vital oil-producing area on Thursday, the fifth day of a conflict that has deepened ethnic divisions in the two-year-old nation.
The conflict, which has so far killed as many as 500 people according to local reports received by the United Nations, has alarmed South Sudan’s neighbors. African mediators held talks with President Salva Kiir on Thursday to try to broker peace.
Haq said the situation in central Juba appeared to have calmed down somewhat, allowing limited movement of U.N. personnel, though the United Nations continues to receive reports of civilians seeking protection.
“Following unconfirmed reports of several students killed by security personnel in Juba University yesterday, several hundred students reportedly remaining on campus have requested assistance from the U.N. Mission in South Sudan,” he said.
“A patrol is scheduled for the area this afternoon,” he said. “In another location in Juba called the Kator complex, approximately 2,000 to 5,000 civilians have sought refuge and have called for UNMISS force protection from the U.N. Mission. A patrol is en route.”
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by David Gregorio and James Dalgleish