Gunmen open fire on civilians in South Sudanese UN base

Gunmen open fire on civilians sheltering inside United Nations base in South Sudan

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

South Sudanese civilians fleeing fighting in the northeastern town of Malakal on February 18, 2016.

Updated Feb 19, 2016

Gunmen opened fire on civilians sheltering inside a United Nations base in South Sudan, residents said on Thursday.

The base located in Malakal, near the border of Sudan, was fired at on Wednesday night, with reports saying that gunfire continued on Thursday morning.

"They killed seven people and injured 32 people, including a young boy whose father was also killed," said resident Jacob Nhial, speaking from inside the UN base.

The incident was also reported by rebels.

The exact number of people killed in the attack could not be independently confirmed.

Over 47,500 people live inside the Malakal base, among almost 200,000 civilians who are seeking shelter behind razor wire fences of eight UN bases across the country since civil war began in late 2013.

"They used Kalashnikovs and machine guns, the situation is still tense, people are hiding," Nhial added.

The government is in control of Malakal. It was not immediately clear who the gunmen were.

In the past, the UN has said attacks on its bases in South Sudan may constitute a war crime.

Lam Akol, a veteran opposition politician from Malakal, condemned the “callous and cowardly attack on innocent unarmed civilians.”

The UN mission has over 12,000 peacekeepers, half of them deployed to protect civilians in the bases.

In an attack on April 2014, gunmen killed at least 48 civilians when they opened fire at a UN base in the town of Bor near central South Sudan. At least ten troops were also killed when UN troops fought back.

The world’s youngest nation has been pushed to the brink of famine since the war began, tens of thousands of people have been killed and over two million people forced from their homes.

As part of a repeatedly broken August peace deal, earlier this month President Salva Kiir named his arch-rival and exiled rebel chief Riek Machar as vice-president.

Fighting continues with the conflict now involving multiple militia forces driven by local agendas or revenge, who pay little heed to the peace deal. Machar has yet to return to take up the post.