WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES
The United States on Friday forcefully condemned fatal clashes at a United Nations compound sheltering civilians in South Sudan and urged authorities to investigate the incident, which witnesses said involved government troops.
At least 18 people and more than 70 others were wounded in the violence Wednesday to Thursday at the camp in the town of Malakal, the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms the violence at a UN compound in Malakal that led to the killing of internally displaced persons, and the burning and looting of a facility that provides refuge and aid to over 40,000 victims of the conflict in South Sudan," National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in a statement.
"We are especially disturbed by credible reports that a large group of South Sudanese Government soldiers entered the compound and opened fire on civilians seeking refuge within the camp."
Residents, rebels and aid sources told AFP that South Sudan government troops took part in the attack, which the UN Mission in South Sudan said may constitute a war crime.
One resident described government troops wearing the uniform of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) "shooting at civilians" with fighting taking place in the camp, as well as gunfire coming from soldiers outside.
Internal UN communications seen by AFP also said SPLA soldiers participated.
"We call on the government of South Sudan immediately to conduct an investigation of this violence, to identify the soldiers responsible, and to bring the perpetrators to justice," Rice said.
She also expressed US condolences for those who died — including two MSF workers — and called on "all South Sudanese parties to exercise restraint and avoid retributive violence in the coming days."
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and over two million forced from their homes since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, pushing the world's youngest nation to the brink of famine and splitting it along ethnic lines.