World Bulletin / News Desk
Around 150 South Sudanese civilians have drowned in Nile River while trying to flee the ongoing fighting between government forces and rebels in Malakal, capital of South Sudan's Upper Nile State, a local government official said on Thursday.
“Many people who were running from the town tried to cross the River Nile and River Kiir [a Nile tributary] but the rebels fired guns at the boats they were using and they jumped into the water and got drowned," Information Minister of Upper Nile Philip Jaben told Anadolu Agency via phone.
According to Jaben, the fatal incidents happened on Tuesday and Wednesday when rebels waylaid the boats and shot at the people, forcing them to jump into the waters.
"I saw some of the bodies floating on the water and I can estimate that there were about 150 people who died,” Jaben added.
“Among the bodies were those of children, women and men.”
Jaben also asserted that more other people were killed after taking refuge in hospitals and churches and pointed the finger at the rebels loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar.
“I want to say the rebels are not dignified, going to churches and hospital and killing people. They are looters and killers,” he said.
Jaben declined to state the number of the people he claimed to have been killed by rebel forces in hospitals and churches.
"The details are not yet there but will give them out as soon as possible. However, what I know is that they have also killed a pharmacist called Stephen at the hospital and an engineer of South Sudan Radio called Chongrial Nyawello,” Jaben pointed out.
Jaben, who had fled the town when fighting renewed on Tuesday morning, said he managed to sneak back and is currently in the northern side controlled by government forces.
"I am in the northern part of the town but most people have run off, and are still in the bushes and in the UN Compound, but our worry now is about those who ran to the churches and hospitals, because of the reports we got," Jaben said. "They were pulled out and killed.”
On Thursday, Jaben said that fighting was still ongoing in some parts of the town.
"Today, they are fighting around Upper Nile University and UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in the town and on the road that goes to Baliet," he said, adding that the town's hospital were also subject to a bombing attack.
"They [rebels] are in control of some places in the south of the town. It is difficult to chase them, and they are also not going away," he added.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) on Tuesday conceded that the rebels have taken control of parts of Malakal.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.
The violence has already claimed more than 10,000 lives. The UN estimates that some 3.7 million South Sudanese are now "severely food insecure," while more than 867,000 have been displaced by the fighting.
The strategic, oil-rich city of Malakal has changed hands more than once since the conflict began last December.
Many of the city's buildings have been destroyed and government facilities vandalized. Its main marketplace – along with numerous shops, offices and banks – has also been ransacked.
Many people have been killed, both in Malakal and on its outskirts, while numerous others have been displaced, taking refuge in UN compounds, hospitals and churches in and outside the city.Last Mod: 21 Şubat 2014, 10:20