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Fifty-Eight Killed in Attack on UN South Sudan Base

South Sudan's Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin speaks during a press conference with Interior minister Aleu Ayienyi Aleu (L), in Juba, South Sudan, April 18, 2014. The Government of South Sudan strongly condemns the attack on innocent civilians in
U.N. officials say the death toll from a Thursday attack on a U.N. compound in South Sudan has risen to 58, and that more than 100 people are injured.

Officials say the victims include women and children. They say many of the victims are ethnic Nuers who sought refuge at the compound in Bor after fighting erupted in the country late last year.

Witnesses say the attackers apparently had been demonstrating in front of the compound before the situation turned violent. U.N. officials say the armed mob then forced its way into the camp and shot at civilians.

However, South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei said forces from the U.N. mission, known as UNMISS, shot bullets into the air, provoking the attack.

"The UNMISS force shot bullets in the air. That shooting of bullets in the air provoked the situation and as a result a fight ensued between the youths, the UNMISS force and the rebels. The IDPs [internally displaced persons] on one side and youths on the other side. And that is what resulted into that unfortunate incident of yesterday,'' said Makuei.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been sheltering at U.N. bases across South Sudan since fighting broke out in December following a rift between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar.

Jon Temin, the Africa programs director at the U.S. Institute of Peace, told VOA the U.N. camps were not set up to handle large numbers of civilians.

"Their safety and security is a major concern. The U.N. is not set up to care for 70,000 people," said Temin.

The U.N. says more than 800,000 people have been internally displaced by violence in South Sudan, and it warns that the upcoming rainy season will put more people at risk of food insecurity.