It’s rebels loyal to exiled leader Riek Machar and renegade general Thomas Cirillo Swaka reponsible for the missing humanitarian workers, a South Sudanese military official said Thursday.
Ten aid workers have reportedly gone missing in South Sudan’s Yei town in unclear circumstances according to a U.N. official, the latest incident involving relief staff in the country.
Alain Noudehou, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, said a convoy of U.N. and other aid workers had been heading to Tore from Yei, in Central Equatoria region, early on Wednesday. Their whereabouts and well-being were now unknown.
South Sudan Military spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang said that “the area surrounding Yei is crisscrossed by these (Machar and Swaka) rebels groups—and of late, they have been indulging in this business of abducting aid workers.”
“The international community should not beat about the bush, they should contact the leadership of SPLA-IO and Riek Machar to ensure that the workers are released …and also hold them accountable because it has become a ritual for them to interrupt humanitarian operations” Ruai said.
Aid workers are often targeted by armed groups operating in South Sudan which has been in the grip of a war between supporters of President Salva Kiir and those of his former deputy Riek Machar since 2013.
Earlier this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it had suspended operations in Leer after their field base was shot at on April 10. It evacuated its staff to Juba.
In mid April, South Sudan’s rebels said they had released seven aid workers detained for nearly three weeks in the Central Equatoria region on accusations of spying for the government.
SPLA-IO Spokesperson Lam Paul Gabriel said there has been fighting between their forces and those loyal to renegade general Thomas Cirillo in the area where the aid workers are said to have disappeared. He however denied knowledge of their whereabouts.
“The commander on the ground would have informed us …so let’s not rule out the possibility of other armed groups being responsible on this”