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'Mostly Women and Children': 200-300 Dead Fleeing War

Many women and children among the dead in South Sudan after boat capsizes on Nile River

Jon Queally, staff writer

The ferry passengers were fleeing fighting in the city of Malakal. (Photograph: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

As intense fighting continues in South Sudan, news agency are reporting Tuesday that a riverboat disaster on the Nile River has claimed the lives of at least 200 people, mostly women and children, as people there attempted to flee the violence.

"The reports we have are of between 200 to 300 people, including women and children. The boat was overloaded," army spokesman Philip Aguer told reporters. "They all drowned. They were fleeing the fighting that broke out again in Malakal."

According to Agence France-Presse:

The disaster is one of the worst single incidents to have been reported from the war-torn country, which has been wracked by conflict for a month following a clash between rival army units loyal to either President Salva Kiir or his former vice-president Riek Machar.

According to the United Nations, 400,000 civilians have fled their homes over the past month, many of them escaping a wave of ethnic violence. Up to 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the fighting, aid sources and analysts say.

The army spokesman meanwhile reported that battles were raging in several areas of the country, signalling that the government's recapture of Bentiu, another key oil city in the north, had failed to deal a knock-out blow to the rebels.

South Sudan is the world's youngest nation, having been formed in 2011 after breaking off of Sudan as part of a drive to end a long internal conflict. The transition, however, has not been smooth as various factions continue drives for power.

Talks between the two opposing forces are currently taking place in neighboring Ethiopia, but progress has been slow.  Meanwhile, the UN warns that human rights violations are continuing throughout South Sudan as the fight continuing.

In a separate troubling development, the Associated Press reports that rebel forces have described being attacked by government aircraft with a "smoky weapon that burns," an indication that white phosphorus is being deployed as a weapon by the South Sudanese army.


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