April 27, 2018 / 1:43 PM / 2 months ago

U.N. official in South Sudan says concerned about surge in violence

JUBA (Reuters) - The United Nations is concerned about a surge in violence in three states in South Sudan, a senior official of the world body said on Friday, adding there was shooting near a peace-keeping base overnight.

On Thursday, 10 aid workers went missing in Yei in Central Equatoria region, the latest incident involving relief staff in the war-ridden country.

David Shearer, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General, said there were increased clashes in Unity, Jonglei and Central Equatorias states. He pointed out the towns of Nhialdiu, Mayendit, Rupchai, Thaker, and Mirinyal near Leer and Bentiu in the Unity region, and Motot and Akobo in Jonglei, as the worst affected.

“Innocent civilians are being caught in the crossfire, including many women, children and elderly people,” Shearer said in a statement. “Our teams on the ground are reporting incidents of killing, sexual violence, homes being burnt to the ground, cattle raiding, and the looting of hospitals and schools.”

Shearer said in one instance overnight from Thursday to Friday, there was gunfire near an UNMISS temporary peacekeeping operating base at Leer.

South Sudan, which won independence from Sudan in 2011 and is the world’s youngest nation, has been in a civil war since 2013 when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in a conflict that has often taken ethnic lines, and much of the nation has suffered dire food shortages. Both rebels and government forces stand accused of targeting humanitarian workers and sometimes blocking access to relief and hijacking food and other aid.

Shearer said over 30 humanitarian workers have been relocated in the past two weeks as it had become too dangerous for them to work in an environment of increase violence that had forced thousands of people to flee into swamps and bushes, depriving them of food, clean water and medical care.

Reporting by Denis Dumo; Writing by George Obulutsa

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