South Sudan: Army is targeting civilians in Yei on Suspicion of link with rebels—UNHCR Official

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An official from United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said South Sudan army is targeting people in the country’s southwestern town of Yei on suspicion that they are linked to armed opposition.

UNHCR said the deteriorating security in the entire Yei River State, has prompted thousands to flee into the town, causing a severe humanitarian crisis.

Spokesperson William Spindler said urgent humanitarian assistance is needed for over 100,000 people trapped in the area which has become a hot-bed for rebel activity following renewed fighting.

“This is the first time that the population in Yei – primarily farmers living on commercial and subsistence agriculture – has become a direct target of violence, and on suspicion of their belonging to opposition groups. They urgently need humanitarian assistance,” he added.

Spindler said “The security situation in Yei deteriorated rapidly after renewed conflict broke out in Juba in early July and came to a head earlier this month, forcing thousands of civilians to flee their homes,”

Yei is situated in Central Equatoria state, close to South Sudan’s borders with neighboring Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Yesterday, the military wing of South Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In opposition linked to exiled leader Riek Machar said it had reportedly taken full control of the town of Morobo in the Country’s Central Equatoria 

Spokesperson James Gatdet Dak told the media that fighting also erupted in Eastern Equatoria’s Magwi county between the rival forces this week.

A popular plural news website Sudan Tribune reported that 30,000 people have been displaced into Yei from surrounding areas, following deadly attacks on civilians and looting of private property on 11 and 13 September.

UNHCR’s presence there has been limited to providing protection activities and assistance to refugees from neighbouring DRC who live in Yei town and nearby Lasu settlement.

Deteriorating security in South Sudan has forced over 200,000 people to flee the country since a fresh fighting broke out around Juba, the capital, on 8 July 2016, bringing the number of South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring nations to over 1 million.

In South Sudan, more than 1.61 million people are reportedly internally displaced and another 261,000 are refugees from Sudan, DRC, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic (CAR).