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Four Russians Killed in UNMISS Helicopter Attack

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Four Russians crew on board were killed when a United Nations helicopter was downed in South Sudan on Friday.

Reports say the helicopter was most likely downed during takeoff.

According to UN, South Sudan's army has shot down a United Nations helicopter whose troops mistook the helicopter for an aircraft supplying weapons to rebels.

In a press statement in Washington DC, Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell says the United States deplores the shooting down of a UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) civilian helicopter in Jonglei State on 21 December.

kiir
Salva Kiir Mayardit, the first elected President of South Sudan. His trademark hat was a gift from then-President of the US George W. Bush. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
"The United States expresses its condolences to the families of the crewmembers killed in the attack, as well as to UNMISS and the Government of Russia." - Mr. Ventrell

The US calls on the Government of South Sudan to fully investigate the incident, hold those responsible to account, and take steps to ensure that UN staff are protected from incidents like this in the future.

Mr. Ventrell reiterates that the United States fully supports UNMISS and its mission to consolidate peace and security, protect civilians, and to help establish conditions for development in South Sudan.

In July 2011, South Sudan, Africa's 54th nation was born. Millions of people celebrated a new national identity and new national promise. For more than two decades, Sudan has been riven by intense fighting over land and resources.

However, the security situation in the disputed area of Abyei remains fragile, with both South Sudan and Sudan failing to withdraw their armed forces as agreed under a demilitarization pact reached in June 2011.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July. A referendum on the status of the Abyei area on the border was to have been held in January this year, but never took place amid disagreement on voter eligibility.

Dozens of people have been killed this year as a result of clashes in Abyei and surrounding areas and tens of thousands of have been forced to flee their homes.

In March this year, sixty-three civilians have been wounded as unidentified raiders reportedly attacked several cattle camps occupied by members of the Lou Nuer ethnic group in Jonglei state, South Sudan.

Reports say most of the cattle camps that were attacked are located on the Ethiopia side of the border. The wounded civilians have been treated in the hospital on Akobo town, but reliable casualty figures, including deaths, are not yet available.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) responded urgently.

UNMISS recently sent patrol units and deployed a medical team to an area on the country's border with Ethiopia where the incident took place.

A patrol and medical teams were dispatched to Akobo and Wanding areas to determine the circumstances of the reported attacks and to provide medical aid to those affected.

The mission also voiced condemnation on the attacks and urged all communities in Jonglei state to exercise restraint.

The latest attacks came even as the Government of South Sudan appointed a peace committee to broker reconciliation between feuding communities in Jonglei.

UNHCR reports that an estimated 15,000 people, most of them women, children and the elderly, who fled from Akobo county in Jonglei state have entered Ethiopia since mid-February.

In December 2011, an outbreak of inter-ethnic violence left more than 40 people dead, most of them women, children and the elderly.

Intense rivalry between the Luo Nuer and Murle communities in Jonglei, often over cattle rustling, frequently spark outbreaks of bloody clashes that have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced this year alone.

The Security Council established the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) for an initial period of one year, starting from 9 July 2011.

UNMISS is on the ground to consolidate peace and security and to help establish conditions for development.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain english. Read more stories by Mina Fabulous. Contact Mina through NewsBlaze.

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