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Despite the South Sudanese Catholic bishops’ call for the respect of places of worship and medical centres, anti-government rebels are continuing to target both according to church sources.
These are the few remaining places where trapped inhabitants can seek refuge following the violence that began on 15 December last year. The conflict is between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. In recent weeks, soldiers loyal to President Kiir from the Dinka tribe and rebel fighters aligned to Machar from Nuer tribe have clashed in several towns.
In Malakal, the “White Army” (a Nuer militia) entered churches, a hospital and an orphanage to loot and kill. Sr Elena Balatti, a Comboni missionary who fled the town, said several people sheltering in churches had been killed. The town’s Catholic Cathedral, St Joseph’s, was also attacked, with the priests being threatened and compound looted.
“We insist on respect for institutions such as hospitals, churches and places where displaced civilians shelter,” Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako had said on 31 January.
The medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres said last month that medical care in South Sudan was threatened with patients being shot in their beds, wards set on fire and medical supplies looted. The charity’s hospital in Leer has since been destroyed in the fighting.