South Sudan towns found looted, deserted

The aftermath of weeks of deadly turmoil has been documented by United Nations peacekeepers patrolling key towns

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Widespread looting in South Sudan’s strategic towns has been reported by the United Nations mission in the country, officials said Friday.

Peacekeepers found that the key town of Bor, which has changed hands several times in the conflict between government forces and rebels, had been looted, while the northeastern oil town of Malakal was “deserted and generally quiet,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Had told reporters.

“Yesterday, a mission patrol observed that looting in most parts of the town appears to have been widespread,” Haq said, adding that peacekeepers “noted population movements in the center of the town but residential areas were largely empty.”

Amid intense battles between government forces and rebels, tens of thousands of people have fled Bor and surrounding villages, preferring to take their chances against crocodiles in the White Nile and sniper fire from its banks rather than stay in town.

After the country erupted into conflict on Dec. 15, both towns have been the scene of heavy clashes between the South Sudanese army, loyal to President Salva Kiir, and fighters who back his former vice president Riek Machar.

Kiir dubbed the unrest a “coup attempt” by Machar, whom he sacked in July.

According to the latest U.N. figures, 738,000 civilians have fled their homes because of the fighting but remained in South Sudan, while 130,400 left for neighboring countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

(With AFP)