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UN Says 10 Killed in Malakal Fighting

  • Mugume Davis Rwakaringi

A young woman runs through the street as gunshots ring out a few streets over, in Malakal, Upper Nile State, in South Sudan on Jan. 21, 2014. A ceasefire agreement signed two days later has been repeatedly violated.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says 10 people have been killed in the northern town of Malakal, where government troops and opposition forces clashed for a second day Wednesday and fighting erupted inside the U.N. base sheltering thousands.

“There are 10 people who died of their injuries in our hospital facility, including people who were outside the compound at the time they suffered their injuries, as well as civilians who are living inside our premises,” UNMISS spokesman Joseph Contreras said.

All 10 fatalities were civilians, Contreras said.

Global non-profit International Medical Corps said its personnel have treated more than 100 people wounded in the fighting.

The situation inside the U.N. compound has been brought under control, UNMISS said, but an unspecified number of people are being treated for injuries sustained both inside and outside the U.N. compound.

“The Mission strongly condemns those who instigated the inter-communal violence" inside the UNMISS base "and reserves the right to take appropriate action against these individuals,” UNMISS said in a statement.

It also condemned the fighting in Malakal between pro- and anti-government forces, saying it did nothing to restore stability in the country and exacerbated "an already dire situation for the civilian population."

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in South Sudan since fighting broke out in mid-December. Some 870,000 others have fled their homes, 145,000 of them to neighbouring countries and 75,000 to UNMISS bases, and the United Nations' World Food Programme has said some 3.7 million people are in urgent need of food assistance in South Sudan.

Malakal 'still in chaos'

Army spokesman Philip Aguer said Malakal was "still in chaos" Wednesday.

The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and anti-government forces accuse the other side of starting the fighting on Tuesday.

Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesman for the opposition, said anti-government forces are now in full control of the town, and the government's insistence to the contrary was propaganda.

"It is always difficult for the government to admit defeat. I am basically saying we are in full control of Malakal," Koang said.

Aguer contested the opposition's claim, saying, "The rebels are in the southern part of the town and the SPLA is in the northern part of the town.”

A U.N. spokesperson in New York told reporters that fighting appeared to have subsided by late Tuesday, but added that "there are continued reports of gunfire and mortars being heard in the area."

As the capital of the state that produces around 85 percent of South Sudan's oil, Malakal has been a key battleground in the unrest that started in Juba in mid-December and quickly spread around the country.

Oil production has continued in Upper Nile during the conflict, but with production cut off in the other oil state, Unity, overall crude output in South Sudan has fallen.

The fighting in Malakal was the latest breach of a ceasefire agreed to at the end of last month.

Fighting erupted near Malakal last week, just as pro- and anti-government sides were beginning a second round of peace talks in Addis Ababa, and aid groups have also reported heavy fighting in Unity state.

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