South Sudan Army Killed Civilians in Western Region, Group Says

South Sudanese forces tortured, raped and killed civilians during counterinsurgency operations that began in the country’s northwest last year, Human Rights Watch said.

The abuses started in December in the nation’s Western Bahr el Ghazal area, with government troops attacking civilians in villages and neighborhoods of Wau, the main town, the New York-based rights group said Tuesday in a statement, citing witnesses. Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee, leaving entire villages and districts empty, it said. Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang denied the allegations.

Civil war that began in oil-producing South Sudan in December 2013 has left tens of thousands of people dead and forced 2 million from their homes. The main rebel leader, Riek Machar, returned to the capital, Juba, last month as part of a power-sharing agreement with President Salva Kiir that seeks to end the conflict.

“With all eyes on the new national unity government in Juba, government soldiers have been literally getting away with murder in the country’s western regions,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.

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