UN peacekeeper among those killed in latest Abyei fighting

A heavy fighting erupted Saturday in the disputed Abyei region, killing a UN peacekeeper and several civilians, the UN and local officials said.

A heavy intercommunal fighting erupted Saturday in the disputed Abyei region, killing a UN peacekeeper and several civilians, the UN and local officials said.

“Fighting has erupted in Abyei between armed Nuer youth and armed youth from Abyei within Abyei town. The fighting lasted for two hours, it is very unfortunate. Those Nuer youth came to Abyei last year due to flooding in their areas,” Bulis Koch, Abyei Information Minister, told Radio Tamazuj Saturday evening.

He said the number of casualties as a result of the fighting within Abyei town remains unclear.

The information minister further said four vehicles also were attacked in Kol-Ngol-Nyang village in Abyei and said: “Four vehicles that were coming from Ruweng fell in an ambush in Kol-Ngol-Nyang village on Saturday. 11 civilians and two soldiers were killed.”

“The vehicles were carrying Ruweng officials who were coming to Abyei, but there were civilians from Abyei in the vehicles. When they reached Kol-Ngol-Nyang village, the first car was shot by RPG,” he added.

Separately, the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) strongly condemned a “series of armed attacks” that took place on Saturday evening in the Abyei Area, which it said resulted in civilian casualties as well as the death of a United Nations peacekeeper from Ghana.

The mission confirmed that the intercommunal clashes that took place in the Nyinkuac, Majbong and Khadian areas led to casualties and the evacuation of civilians to UNISFA bases to provide safety for those caught up in the violence.

“Efforts are underway to verify the number of those killed, injured, and displaced in the violence,” the statement read in part.

The UN mission said its base in Agok came under attack by an armed group. “The mission repelled the attack, but tragically a Ghanaian peacekeeper was killed during the incident. The mission strongly condemns the violence and extends its profound condolences to the families of the civilians who lost their lives as well as the fallen peacekeeper, who gave his life in the service of the people of Abyei. The mission also wishes all of those who were injured in the attacks a speedy and full recovery,” it said.

UNISFA reaffirmed its commitment to carrying out its mandate to provide “proactive and robust protection of civilians as well as support to all efforts to secure peace and security in its area of operations.”

 The mission urged a swift and thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to these attacks and to ensure that all perpetrators are held accountable.

The oil-rich Abyei region is also claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan. The two countries have yet to agree on the border mapping since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011.

The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) was deployed in June 2011 to protect civilians under the imminent threat of physical violence.

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