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UN mission in South Sudan condemns 'sustained gunfire' near Bentiu base

19 August 2014 – The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) today condemned the live gunfire by Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers near the UN base in Bentiu, that wounded a child.

According to a statement, at approximately 9:45 am yesterday morning, 18 August, "sustained gunfire," lasting for 30 minutes, was heard around the UNMISS compound in Bentiu, Unity state which houses thousands of displaced people.

"All indications are that the firing into the air was done in the direction of the UNMISS Bentiu base," the Mission said, adding that it has recovered nine bullets which penetrated its accommodations and office blocks inside the protection of civilian area.

The source of the firing came from nearby Rubkona Airstrip, where SPLA soldiers are stationed. The Mission has been advised that the shooting was done by SPLA troops, who were "firing in the air, in celebration of war veterans' day."

The incident could potentially have harmed more civilians as well as UN personnel, the Mission said and called on the SPLA to desist with all live fire celebratory exercises in the vicinity of its bases and civilian sites.

The latest shooting comes on the heels of Friday's outbreak of violence in Bentiu which caused hundreds of people to seek shelter at the nearest airport. The Mission reported hearing heavy, sustained small arms and artillery fire. Approximately 340 civilians took shelter with UNMISS troops at the airport, where they were protected and then escorted to the POC area.

Political in-fighting between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, started in mid-December 2013 and subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict that also sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country. Overall, the crisis has uprooted some 1.5 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease.

These latest clashes come as the two rivals and their representatives fell short of the goal of reaching a power-sharing deal by 10 August, through talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, being facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

On a visit to South Sudan last week, the United Nations Security Council reiterated that it is ready to impose sanctions against anyone who undermines the ongoing peace talks.

Speaking in South Sudan's capital of Juba last week, United Kingdom Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, President of the Council for the month of August, said that all 15 members of the body agree that "there will be consequences for those who try to undermine agreements that are reached in the Addis Ababa talks."

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