The reported massacre of hundreds of people in South Sudan is an “abomination”, the White House says.
In a statement released in response to UN reports that fighters aligned with rebel leader Riek Machar killed civilians after taking over the oil hub of Bentiu last week, the US administration registered its condemnation.
The statement read: “We are horrified by reports out of South Sudan that fighters aligned with rebel leader Riek Machar massacred hundreds of innocent civilians last week in Bentiu.
“Images and accounts of the attacks shock the conscience: stacks of bodies found dead inside a mosque, patients murdered at a hospital, and dozens more shot and killed in the streets and at a church – apparently due to their ethnicity and nationality – while hate speech was broadcast on local radio.”
And Ugandan forces backing the government in neighbouring South Sudan against a four-month-old rebellion said on Wednesday that UN peacekeepers should have done more to stop the slaughter.
Uganda sent troops into South Sudan shortly after fighting broke out between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar in mid-December.
In its report, the UN said that rebels hunted down men, women and children taking refuge in a mosque, church and hospital in Bentiu. Around 22,000 people took refuge in the UN base in the town, the capital of the oil producing Unity State, after the killings last Tuesday.
“It is disturbing that civilians are being killed in the backyard of a UN mission,” Ugandan military spokesman Paddy Ankunda told the Reuters news agency.
He added: “There are thousands of UN soldiers in the country and you have hundreds killed under their noses… The United Nations ought to do more to stop these crimes.”
The White House said: “Bulldozers have buried the dead in mass graves. We are equally appalled by the armed attack last week at the UN Mission in South Sudan site in Bor that killed at least 48 civilians and injured dozens more.
“These acts of violence are an abomination. They are a betrayal of the trust the South Sudanese people have put in their leaders. This is exactly the violence and suffering the South Sudanese people fought for decades to escape.
Images and accounts of the attacks shock the conscience White House spokesman
“Both President Kiir and Riek Machar must make clear that attacks on civilians are unacceptable, perpetrators of violence on both sides must be brought to justice, and the cycle of violence that has plagued South Sudan for too long must come to an end.”
Speaking to Reuters, rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang denied responsibility for the slaughter, blaming government forces for the killings.
The UN mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, has approximately 8,500 military peacekeepers and police deployed in a country the size of France with a population of some 11 million.
A UNMISS spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.