UN says mass grave discovered in South Sudan

UN says mass grave discovered in South Sudan

PanARMENIAN.Net - The UN says a mass grave containing 75 bodies has been found in Bentiu in the north of South Sudan, amid spreading ethnic violence, according to BBC News.

The UN's human rights body said at least two other mass graves, in the capital Juba, had been reported. The fighting first erupted in Juba last week and has spread throughout South Sudan.

It follows a power struggle between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his ex-deputy Riek Machar, of the Nuer.

UN officials say at least 80,000 people have been displaced by the crisis - about half of them seeking shelter at UN bases - with fighting now having spread to half of the 10 states.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has urged both sides to do all they can to protect civilians.

She said in a statement: "Mass extrajudicial killings, the targeting of individuals on the basis of their ethnicity and arbitrary detentions have been documented in recent days. We have discovered a mass grave in Bentiu, in Unity State, and there are reportedly at least two other mass graves in Juba."

UNHCR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said the bodies in Bentiu appeared to be Dinka soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

The other two reported grave sites are at Jebel-Kujur and Newside, near Eden, both in Juba.

However, the reports have not been independently verified, according to the BBC.

"There is a palpable fear among civilians of both Dinka and Nuer backgrounds that they will be killed on the basis of their ethnicity," Pillay said.

President Kiir and Machar have both said they are willing to talk to try to end the conflict. However, Machar has said his detained political allies must first be freed, while Kiir says there should be no preconditions.

Machar told Radio France Internationale he had spoken to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday. Machar said he had formed a delegation for talks and that they would probably be held in Ethiopia.

He said: "We want a democratic nation. We want democratic free and fair elections. We want Salva Kiir to call it a day."

Rebels supporting Machar have seized the major towns of Bor and Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity State.

Kiir has accused Machar, who he sacked in July, of plotting a coup. Machar denies he is trying to seize power, while the government has denied it is behind any ethnic violence.

The UN has 7,000 soldiers deployed in South Sudan but Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Security Council to assign another 5,500 troops.

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