The United States and United Nations Security Council added their voices to the chorus of international condemnation of this week's deadly attack on the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Bor and a flare-up of violence around the young country.
The U.S. Embassy in Juba released a statement Friday signed by the United States, six European countries and the European Union delegation in South Sudan, all saying they are "profoundly concerned by the reports of the killing and injuring of civilians in Bentiu, Bor, and elsewhere, and condemn these atrocities in the strongest terms."
"Leaders of both sides in South Sudan’s conflict must recognize that targeting civilians and UN personnel, whether by formal military units or informal 'youth militias,' is completely unacceptable and constitutes flagrant violations of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, which both the government and rebels have signed," the statement said.
A U.N. official said at least 40 people were killed when a large group of armed civilians stormed the U.N. compound in Bor on Thursday and began firing indiscriminately at people who were sheltering inside the base.
Most of the nearly 5,000 civilians sheltering inside the Bor base are women and children.
The number of people seeking refuge at the U.N. base in Bentiu, the capital of
oil-producing Unity state, jumped from 7,000 to 12,000 in the space of a few days this week, as locals fled new fighting between government and opposition forces vying for control of the town, UNMISS spokesman Joe Contreras said.
Attacks may be war crime
The eight signatories of the statement -- the United States, United Kingdom and Norway, which make up the so-called South Sudan troika; Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the E.U. Delegation -- warned that, "Those responsible for attacks against civilians, and otherwise violating the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, can be held accountable."
The United Nations Security Council "condemned in the strongest terms these acts and underscored that attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime,” said a statement released to the media Friday.
In its own statement, released Thursday -- the day of the attack in Bor -- the U.S. State Department said that "the deliberate targeting of civilians during these attacks is unacceptable and those responsible for such acts must be held accountable."
Jeremy Konyndyk, the Director of USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), who was in South Sudan on an official visit at the time of the attack, wrote on microblogging site Twitter:
Shocked at egregious and reprehensible attack on UNMISS compound in Bor, just a day after I visited with IDPs there: http://t.co/Hei0k57qTO— Jeremy Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) April 18, 2014
U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware also took to Twitter to condemn the assault:
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke out hours after the Bor attack, saying: "Any attack on United Nations peacekeepers is unacceptable and constitutes a war crime." He also called the assault a "serious escalation" of the four-month-old crisis in South Sudan.