Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

UN Urges South Sudanese Army to Halt Offensive on Besieged Town

The United Nations human-rights chief urged South Sudan to halt a military offensive around a northern rebel-held town that’s a refuge for thousands of civilians who’ve fled violence during a three-year civil war.

The town of Aburoc in the Upper Nile region holds as many as 50,000 people, many of whom arrived in recent weeks after fleeing attacks to the south by government forces, the UN said Thursday in a statement. Rebels may have positioned themselves near populated areas, placing civilians in harm’s way if there’s an attack, according to the UN.

“Civilians in Aburoc are at serious and imminent risk of gross human rights violations, inter-ethnic violence and re-displacement,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in the statement. He said the people “have nowhere left to go,” with the army “closing in from the south and options to flee northwards severely limited and fraught with danger.”

The conflict that began in December 2013 has claimed tens of thousands of lives, with both government forces and rebels accused of atrocities. Deputy army spokesman Santo Domic said by phone that his forces are responding to rebel attacks and the military will “continue to go by our mandate to protect civilians.”

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