S Sudan attacks an abomination, says White House

Rebel soldier in Bentiu Rebel fighters remain in control of Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State

The massacre of hundreds of civilians in South Sudan is an "abomination" and a betrayal of the people by their leaders, the White House has said.

Rebels have denied a UN report that they killed civilians after taking over the oil hub of Bentiu last week.

The US statement said President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar must make it clear that such attacks were unacceptable.

A January ceasefire deal has failed to halt violence that began in December.

South Sudanese fleeing an attack on the South Sudanese town of Renk, 19 April 2014 People have also been fleeing heaving fighting in the north-east of Upper Nile State this week

More than a million people have since been forced from their homes.

Talks between the two sides which were due to resume on Wednesday in neighbouring Ethiopia have been delayed until 27 April.

Start Quote

Images and accounts of the attacks shock the conscience”

End Quote Jay Carney White House spokesman

China, a major investor in South Sudan's oil industry, also expressed concern about the violence.

"We strongly condemn this and urge all sides in South Sudan, including the opposition and the authorities, to keep pushing political dialogue to resolve the relevant issues," Reuters news agency quotes foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang as saying.

"We also ask that the South Sudanese authorities provide protection to China's reasonable rights in South Sudan and the safety of Chinese nationals," he said.

The conflict pits Mr Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against his former Vice-President, Mr Machar, from the Nuer community.

On Tuesday, the military said the rebels were involved in fierce fighting with the army in several states in the country.

'Hate speech'

China's investment in the Sudans

A Southern Sudanese soldier standing next to the infrastructure of an field processing facility in Unity State (file picture - 2010)
  • An estimated $20bn (£12bn) before the countries split
  • $8bn in South Sudan following secession

"We are horrified by reports out of South Sudan that fighters aligned with rebel leader Riek Machar massacred hundreds of innocent civilians last week in Bentiu," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

"Images and accounts of the attacks shock the conscience: Stacks of bodies found dead inside a mosque, patients murdered at a hospital, and dozens more shot and killed in the streets and at a church - apparently due to their ethnicity and nationality - while hate speech was broadcast on local radio," Mr Carney said.

Correspondents say last week's killings in Bentiu are among the most shocking since the conflict began.

Rebel commander Brig Lul Ruai Koang told the BBC on Tuesday that the rebel soldiers had not killed any civilians in Bentiu.

He suggested that government forces and their allies could have been responsible in order to make the conflict appear as though it was "tribal war".

An army soldier on patrol in Malakal, South Sudan, in January 2014 More than one million have fled their homes in the four months since the conflict began
UN soldiers patrol in the UN camp in Malakal, South Sudan - 18 March 2014 Some have left to neighbouring countries many others have sought shelter at UN camps

Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State, has changed hands several times during the conflict.

Control of the oilfields is crucial because South Sudan gets about 90% of its revenue from oil.

Mr Carney said that US officials were also appalled by an armed attack last week on the UN camp in Bor in Jonglei State in which at least 58 people were killed.

The UN has said it could constitute a war crime.

"These acts of violence are an abomination. They are a betrayal of the trust the South Sudanese people have put in their leaders," he said.

Both Mr Kiir and Mr Machar have prominent supporters from various communities, but there have been numerous reports of rebels killing Dinkas and the army targeting Nuers.

Fighting broke out last year after Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting to stage a coup.

Mr Machar, who was sacked as vice-president earlier in 2013, denied the charges but launched a rebellion.

The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan, which became the world newest state after seceding from Sudan in 2011.

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians' political bases are often ethnic.
News graphic showing the ethnic groups of South Sudan Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Map showing the location of oil fields in South Sudan Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
Map showing the geography of South Sudan The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Map showing access to water in South Sudan After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest country - and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water - up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Map showing education levels in South Sudan Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan - however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Map showing food insecurity rates in South Sudan Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).

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