South Sudan rebels said on Monday the government should be held responsible for the killing of six aid workers, the deadliest single assault on humanitarian staff in a three-year civil war.
The government said it was too early to say who was behind Saturday’s ambush, an attack condemned as a “heinous murder” by the UN.
The six died as they drove from the capital Juba to the town of Pibor, the UN said, through remote territory largely under government control but fought over by both sides in the conflict and plagued by militias and other armed groups.
The UN did not say which organisation the aid workers belonged to but called on “all those in positions of power” in South Sudan to stop the violence.
“It will be counterproductive at this stage for anybody to rush for judgment without first allowing the truth to be established,” Akol Kordit, the deputy Minister of Information, told Reuters in Juba.
Rebel fighters loyal to former vice president Riek Machar said the government should be held accountable as the killings happened on its territory.
“We don’t have forces in that area.
Instead its the government forces and militias who control that area,” said the spokesman for the rebel SPLM-IO forces, Lam Gabriel.
Pibor is the main town in Boma state, a vast underdeveloped territory bordering Ethiopia rocked by violence between competing clans earlier in March.
No fewer than 79 aid workers have been killed since President Salva Kiir’s government forces clashed with Machar’s men in December 2013, the product of a long-running rivalry between the two men that has split the country along ethnic lines.
UN monitors have found President Salva Kiir’s government is mainly to blame for the catastrophe in his country which, in less than six years of independence, has collapsed into a chaotic ethnic war, with an epidemic of rape and a famine in parts of the country.
NAN reports that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Sunday described as appalling, the killing of six aid workers from a national non-governmental organization when their convoy was ambushed in the country.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and the head of UNMISS, David Shearer, in a statement issued on Sunday, said they were killed while travelling along the Government-controlled area on the Juba-Pibor road.
“Their bodies were found on the road by other members of the convoy who were some way behind.
“The UN condemns this appalling and pointless loss of life.
“This cold-blooded killing is utterly reprehensible, not least, because these aid workers were dedicated to alleviating the ongoing suffering of the people of South Sudan,” he said.
Shearer urged the Government to investigate and apprehend the killers.
He said the attack, the single worst incident targeting aid workers in the country since the outbreak of hostilities in December 2013, came at a time when humanitarian needs had reached unprecedented levels.
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