Thousands Flee as Army Marches on South Sudan Rebel Stronghold

A South Sudanese army offensive on a rebel stronghold has forced about 5,000 civilians to seek shelter in neighboring Ethiopia, adding to the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis, a United Nations official said.

The people have fled their homes since about July 2 as troops advance toward Pagak town in the country’s northeastern Upper Nile region, David Shearer, head of the UN mission in South Sudan, told reporters Wednesday in the capital, Juba. He reported heavy fighting north of Pagak in the past week and said the offensive “is not in the spirit” of a unilateral cease-fire declared by the government in May.

The civil war that began in the world’s newest nation in December 2013 has claimed tens of thousands of lives and uprooted more than 3.5 million people, many of them to neighboring Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Deputy army spokesman Santo Domic said by phone he had no information and is looking into the reports.

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