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MSF Suspends Work In South Sudan Oil Town


International medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Friday it has suspended activities in the South Sudanese town of Malakal, after its compound was looted twice in one day.

“Armed men entered the MSF compound in Malakal twice yesterday, where they looted and physically threatened the team,” Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF’s general director, said in a statement.

"We have no choice today but to suspend temporarily our activities in Malakal hospital. This leaves thousands of people without much needed surgical and general healthcare – a matter which is of huge concern to us,” he said.

MSF said large numbers of people have sought refuge at the hospital in Malakal, and more than 80 people were treated there for wounds sustained in fighting in the town on Thursday.

Days earlier, MSF said it treated more than 130 patients with gunshot wounds in Malakal and Nasir, a town in the southeast of Upper Nile state.

The capital of oil-rich Upper Nile state, Malakal has changed hands several times since violence erupted in South Sudan on Dec. 15, in what President Salva Kiir has said was a failed attempt by former Vice President Riek Machar to oust him.

Opposition forces said Tuesday they had recaptured Malakal, but the government swiftly denied the claim.

On Friday, a source in Malakal, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told VOA News that "anti-government forces" have been "in full control" of the town since Tuesday and were moving toward the oil-producing areas of Melut and Paloug.

It was impossible to independently confirm his report.

Eighty-five percent of South Sudan's oil -- the backbone of the young country's economy -- comes from Upper Nile, with the remainder coming from Unity state, where the capital, Bentiu, has also seen fierce battles for control.

The MSF compound in Bentiu was looted a week ago, the medical aid group said.
A top United Nations official told reporters in Juba Friday that the capital of Unity state has been completely destroyed in fighting between government and opposition forces.

MSF and the U.N. have said people are fleeing Malakal in their droves. Some 20,000 have sought shelter at the U.N. compound in the town, MSF said.

MSF has been working in the Malakal region since 2002, three years before the long war between northern and southern Sudan ended with the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement. South Sudan became an independent state in 2011, six years after the signing of the peace deal.