Fighting between rival communities in a disputed region claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan has killed 54 people, including two UN peacekeepers, the United Nations said on Monday, calling for calm. The clashes in Abyei, a contested oil-rich territory straddling the border of both countries, broke out at the weekend, according to local authorities.
The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) said it “strongly condemns these attacks against civilians and peacekeepers”.
“Currently, according to local authorities, 52 civilians have lost their lives, while 64 others are said to be gravely wounded,” it said. It said peacekeepers came under fire on Sunday “while transporting affected civilians from a UNISFA base to a hospital”.
A Pakistani peacekeeper was killed, and “four uniformed personnel and one local civilian sustained injury”, it said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the violence and appealed to the governments of both sides to investigate so those responsible could be brought to justice, said his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, with attacks on peacekeepers potentially constituting a war crime.
A Ghanaian peacekeeper had been killed on Saturday, UNISFA added, calling for an investigation into the violence.
Located between Sudan and South Sudan, Abyei has been a flashpoint since the South gained independence in 2011.
According to authorities in the Abyei Special Administrative Area, armed youths and a local rebel militia carried out a series of “barbaric coordinated attacks”, starting on Saturday morning.
Rou Manyiel Rou, secretary general for the Abyei Special Administrative Area, said on Saturday that the violence was tied to a long-running “conflict between (the) Ngok and Twic” communities.
In a statement published on Monday, Britain, Norway and the United States, the international “Troika” that sponsored South Sudan’s independence, said they were “deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in recent months between communities living in and around” Abyei.