Peacekeeping troops fired tear gas to break up an interethnic conflict inside a UN base in South Sudan. The international organization has deployed tanks to secure the camp's perimeter.
At least five people are dead inside a UN base in South Sudan in what appears to be the latest bout of interethnic violence in a civil war that has divided the world's youngest nation along ethnic lines for over two years.
The attack reportedly emerged from within the camp. The fighting erupted Wednesday night at a base in Malakal, in the Upper Nile region, and wounded at least 30 people.
UN forces responded to the violence by firing tear gas to break up the fighting.
"Violence involving the use of small arms, machetes and other weapons broke out," according to a statement from the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The weapons were apparently smuggled in.
Higher death toll
One camp resident, Jack Nhial, said the death toll was higher than the figure cited by the UN. He said at least 12 people were dead, and that the situation remained perilous.
"They used Kalashnikovs and machine guns... the situation is still tense," Nhial said, adding the peacekeepers were now patrolling the base in tanks.
The UN operates eight camps that are aiding 200,000 internally displaced people across South Sudan. The Malakal base is one of the biggest, sheltering nearly 48,000 within its razor wire perimeter.
UNMISS said youths from the Shilluk and Dinka ethnic groups - both living within its protection zone - began fighting on Wednesday night using small arms, machetes and other weapons, according to Reuters news agency.
"UNMISS police in charge of maintaining order within the protection sites immediately intervened with tear gas to disperse the crowd. Casualties were brought to the international NGO clinic in the site," the UN said in a statement.
UN troops have increased perimeter patrolling while physically securing areas in the vicinity of the Protection of Civilians site. UNMISS is also engaging with local authorities in Malakal to de-escalate the situation.
South Sudan was plunged into civil war in late 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. That set off a cycle of retaliatory killings that has divided the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.
It was not immediately clear who the gunmen were. Malakal is in government control, but frontlines with rebel areas are close by.
bik/kms (AP, Reuters, dpa)