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South Sudan Government Probes Deaths Following Protests in Wau

South Sudan’s government sent police reinforcements to Wau, capital of the state of Western Bahr el-Ghazel, where it’s investigating the deaths of at least 16 people this month, a government official said.

Clashes erupted in the town yesterday following the abduction of 28 farmers, six of whom are known to have been killed, government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters today in Juba, the national capital.

United Nations peacekeepers are patrolling the area and “several thousand” civilians have taken shelter at a UN camp in Wau, Liam McDowell, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, said in a phone interview. “Peacekeepers observed a number of fires as well as groups of youths up to 300 strong with spears, sticks and machetes” in Wau yesterday, he said.

Violence erupted in Wau earlier this month after demonstrations by opponents of a plan to move the county administrative headquarters to the town of Baggari, according to Benjamin. Ten people were killed on Dec. 8 and 9 when the police opened fire on the protesters, some of whom he said attempted to loot a bank. People connected to the dead protesters then kidnapped 28 farmers thought to be supporters of the state government and dumped six bodies in Wau on Dec. 18, sparking yesterday’s violence, in which six shops were destroyed.

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