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UN force steps up patrols after weekend of bloodshed in Abyei

UN peacekeepers patrol the Abyei area. (file)
UNMISS/Tim McKulka
UN peacekeepers patrol the Abyei area. (file)

UN force steps up patrols after weekend of bloodshed in Abyei

Peace and Security

The UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) has heightened ground and aerial patrols to deter further violence after brutal fighting in the oil-rich region claimed dozens of lives over the weekend.

Heavily armed assailants attacked civilians in the villages of Malual Aleu, Banton, Awolnhom, Abathok, Majbong, Awal and east of Rumamier, using rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, reportedly over a land dispute.

At least 37 people are reported to have been killed and several others injured, including women and children. Villages were also set on fire and thousands of cattle were stolen.

UNISFA strongly denounces the ongoing violence, which is escalating intercommunal tensions and threatening the fragile peace,” the mission said in a statement on Monday.

UNISFA is making all efforts to restore calm, protect civilians and engage with local authorities, community leaders, civil society and other stakeholders to prevent retaliatory attacks, it added.

The mission has also increased land and air patrols to deter further violence and protect civilians.

‘Blue helmets’ attacked

According to UNISFA, peacekeepers serving with the mission were also targeted during the clashes.

An armoured personnel carrier came under heavy fire during an ambush, and UN "blue helmets" at a base in Marial Achak were fired upon before the attackers were repelled.

No fatalities were reported.

Surge in clashes

The bloodshed came a week after more than 50 people, including two UN peacekeepers, were killed in similar attacks on civilians over land disputes.

UNISFA peacekeepers are currently sheltering and providing basic support at its bases to more than 2,000 of those displaced.

UNISFA mandate

In June 2011, the Security Council authorized the deployment of UN peacekeepers to the disputed Abyei area, which straddles Sudan and South Sudan and claimed by both.

The Council’s action came in response to rampant violence and population displacement in the region as South Sudan was preparing to formally declare independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011, culminating the 2005 peace accord.

Resource-rich Abyei had witnessed scores of deadly clashes that drove over 100,000 people from their homes in the weeks before the Security Council decision.