Indian UN peacekeepers killed in S Sudan attack

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Media captionUN spokesman Farhan Haq: "We condemn this attack in the strongest terms''

Two Indian peacekeepers have died in an attack on a United Nations compound in South Sudan's Jonglei state, India's foreign ministry has said.

Rebels from the second-largest ethnic group, the Nuer, stormed the base on Thursday, targeting civilians of the majority Dinka ethnic community.

South Sudan has been in turmoil since President Salva Kiir accused his ex-deputy Riek Machar of mounting a coup.

The unrest, which broke out on Sunday, has killed some 500 people so far.

The conflict first erupted in the capital Juba but has since spread.

Mr Kiir, who is a Dinka, has blamed the violence on a group of soldiers who support Mr Machar, a Nuer.

The president accuses them of trying to take power by force on Sunday night in a coup attempt by Mr Machar - a claim the former vice president denies.

'Growing violence'

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin tweeted that Dharmendra Sangwan and Kumar Pal Singh had been killed in the attack on the UN compound, in the town of Akobo.

There were 43 Indian peacekeepers in total at the compound, India's UN envoy Asoke Mukerji said.

A UN spokesman said the attackers, mainly youths, had targeted 32 Dinka civilians who had sought refuge at the base.

Security at the compound has been increased.

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Media captionThousands of people have fled the fighting in the north of the country

The UN has expressed worry about a possible civil war between the Dinka and the Nuer.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply concerned by reports of growing violence in many parts of South Sudan, human rights abuses and killings fuelled by ethnic tensions".

However, the government insists the clashes are over power and politics, noting that both sides involved in the clashes include leaders from different tribes.

"We condemn in strongest possible terms attempts to depict the coup as ethnic strife," a government statement said.

Image caption Many of the internally displaced are from the majority Dinka ethnic community
Image caption The UN has expressed concern about a possible civil war between the Dinka and the Nuer ethnic group
Image caption Peacekeepers have been building latrines with help from the refugees in the UN base in Juba
Image caption President Salva Kiir blames his former vice-president for the violence
Image caption Foreign nationals, and many locals too, are trying to leave the country as fears of a civil war mount

The UN is sheltering more than 30,000 civilians in five state capitals, including Juba and Bor.

Early on Thursday, Nuer rebels seized control of Bor. Even before the unrest, the town was seen as one of the most volatile areas of South Sudan.

In an interview with Radio France Internationale, Mr Machar called on the army to remove the president.

"We want him to leave, that's it," he told the station.

Mr Machar was sacked by Mr Kiir in July.

The UN has called for political dialogue to end the crisis, and the Ugandan government says its president has been asked by the UN to mediate between the two sides.

A delegation of East African foreign ministers earlier arrived in Juba to try to mediate in the crisis.

Britain and the US have both sent planes to airlift their nationals out of the country, and a US defence official described the situation as "getting ugly".

South Sudan has struggled to achieve a stable government since becoming independent in 2011.

The oil-rich country remains ethnically and politically divided, with many armed groups active.

Image caption 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.
Image caption 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.
Image caption 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.
Image caption In the Sudanese states of Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In South Sudan, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of South Sudanese have no toilet facilities.
Image caption Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.
Image caption Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan depend on food aid. The UN says about 2.8m people in South Sudan required food aid in 2013.

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