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S. Sudan rebels slaughter 'hundreds' in ethnic massacres: UN

JUBA, South Sudan--Rebel gunmen in South Sudan massacred “hundreds” of civilians because of their ethnicity when they captured a key oil town last week, the U.N. said Monday, calling for a probe into one of the worst reported atrocities in the war-torn nation.

In the main mosque alone, “more than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded,” the U.N. mission in the country said. Civilians including children were also massacred at a church, hospital and an abandoned U.N. World Food Programme compound, it said.

Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in the country, told AFP after visiting the town of Bentiu he had witnessed the “most terrible sight.”

“There are piles of bodies lining the streets where they had been executed, in the market, outside and inside places of worship ... the majority wearing civilian clothes,” he said.

Fighters took to the radio to urge men to rape women from the opposition ethnic group and said rival groups should be forced from the town, the U.N. said.

South Sudan's army has been fighting rebels loyal to sacked Vice President Riek Machar, who launched a renewed offensive this month targeting key oil fields.

The conflict has an ethnic dimension, pitting President Salva Kiir's Dinka tribe against militia forces from Machar's Nuer people.

U.N. human rights investigators said that after rebels wrested Bentiu from government forces in heavy battles last Tuesday, the gunmen spent two days hunting down those who they believed opposed them.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) “strongly condemns these targeted killings,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York.

“The mission calls for these atrocities to be fully investigated and for the perpetrators and their commanders to be held accountable,” he added.

Reminding the government and rebels of their obligation to protect civilians, Dujarric said the mission “calls on them to immediately cease targeting unarmed civilians” and to respect a January ceasefire that has fallen to pieces.

Both South Sudanese and Sudanese — some from the war-torn Darfur region — were killed, UNMISS said.

Peacekeepers are photographing those killed to provide documentation before burial, Lanzer said, with video footage shot by U.N. workers showing digger machines loaded with corpses.

Hate Radio Urged Rape

“They (the rebels) searched a number of places where hundreds of South Sudanese and foreign civilians had taken refuge, and killed hundreds of the civilians after determining their ethnicity or nationality,” the U.N. statement said.

Some rebels took to local radio to “broadcast hate messages declaring that certain ethnic groups should not stay in Bentiu, and even calling on men from one community to commit vengeful sexual violence against women from another community,” it added.

Shortly after the town was captured rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang praised the “gallant forces” for completing “mopping and cleaning up operations in and around Bentiu.”

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