Why a pro-government militia attacked UN compound in South Sudan

South Sudanese women displaced by the fighting wait in line for personal hygiene kits in a camp for the displaced, inside the United Nations compound in Bor, March 15, 2014. Andreea Campeanu/Reuters/File

Nairobi, Kenya — Scores of civilians were killed Thursday and more than 100 were injured when an armed youth militia attacked a United Nations base in the South Sudan town of Bor, where some 5,000 civilians were sheltering from the civil war.

The attackers, claiming to be peaceful demonstrators, ignored peacekeepers’ warning shots and breached security fences to spray bullets at civilians inside before the “blue helmets,” as UN forces are often known, forced them out.

It was the deadliest incident at a UN base in the four-month conflict, which began in December when the Army split along ethnic lines in a political struggle between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his rival Riek Machar, a Nuer. Thousands of people have been killed, and over a million have fled their homes, including 75,000 taking refuge in UN bases across the country.

Thursday’s killings mark a low point in South Sudan for the UN, which has faced continual accusations from the government of siding with the rebels. The Bor incident is also the first attack by a pro-government civilian militia, perhaps marking a new and dangerous phase of the fighting.  Read more…

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