Hundreds massacred in Bentiu violence

22 Apr 2014

Hundreds massacred in Bentiu violence

21 April 2014 - UNMISS today strongly condemned targeted killings of civilians in the Unity State capital Bentiu, based on their ethnic origins and nationality.

UNMISS officials in the oil-rich state estimate that hundreds of people, both civilians and military, were killed in the fighting that took place between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and opposition forces last week.

During a visit to Bentiu on 20 April, the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan Toby Lanzer and an integrated team from UNMISS, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations observed bodies strewn over roads and bushes in the state capital. A strong stench of decomposing remains filled the air, while vultures and dogs ate off limbs, scalps and abdomen flesh.

“During the past few days, Bentiu was the scene of severe… targeted deliberate violence that struck individuals of certain identities,” said Mr. Lanzer. “What I’ve so far seen is really heart- wrenching.”

Opposite the SPLA headquarters, now under the control of opposition forces, was a line of dead men all in military clothes.

“Certainly, atrocities have been committed here on a significant scale,” said Mr. Lanzer. “We’ve seen remains of people who were clearly executed, including people who were trying to seek shelter in a mosque.”

Along the road leading up to the Kali-Ballee Mosque, a tractor was removing bodies to take them to a graveyard. UNMISS human rights and child protection officers witnessed the exercise as a huge army of flies swarmed around.

“We are documenting this for further investigations,” said UNMISS Acting Unity State Coordinator Mary Cummins. “A contractor is removing the bodies. He is not hired by UNMISS, but we are assisting by providing fuel.”

Outside the gate was another pile of bodies, shattered beyond recognition, except for a woman who was clearly pregnant. Shoes and clothes were scattered all over the mosque’s compound. Team members who looked inside the mosque described equally graphic scenes.

According to the UNMISS statement, the anti-government forces entered the mosque, separated individuals of certain nationalities and ethnic groups and escorted them to safety, while the others were killed.

“More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded,” said the release. “At the Catholic church , SPLA in Opposition soldiers similarly asked civilians who had taken refuge there to identify their ethnic origins and nationalities and proceeded to target and kill several individuals.”

Dozens of people were making their way to the UNMISS base where they hoped to find safety.

“When the fighting started, I hid with my children in the river but when they started shooting into the river, we had to come here,” said Nefisa Nyakusac, a mother of five children, two of whom are missing.

"These atrocities must be fully investigated and the perpetrators and their commanders shall be held accountable", said the Officer in Charge of UNMISS, Raisedon Zenenga.

He reminded the parties of their respective obligations to protect civilians and called on them to immediately stop the targeting of innocent, unarmed civilians.