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South Sudan govt forces ‘killed hundreds of civilians’

Reuters GENEVA (Reuters) — At least 232 civilians were killed and 120 women and girls raped in “scorched earth” attacks by South Sudan government troops and aligned forces in opposition-held villages earlier this year, the U.N. human rights office said Tuesday.

A U.N. investigation identified three commanders suspected of bearing the “greatest responsibility” in the violence in Unity state between April 16 and May 24 that may amount to war crimes, it said in a report.

Elderly and disabled civilians were burned alive in the attack on 40 villages, which appeared aimed at driving out opposition forces, it said. A further 132 women and girls were abducted in the assault that forced 31,140 people to flee.

“The perpetrators ... must not be allowed to get away with it,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein in a statement.

Reiterating his call on the government and African Union to establish a hybrid court for South Sudan, he said the soldiers and aligned forces slit elderly villagers’ throats, hanged women for resisting looting and shot fleeing civilians.

“The brutality and ruthlessness of the attackers as described by the survivors suggests that their intent was to take a ‘scorched earth’ approach, killing or forcibly displacing people, burning their crops and homes, punishing and terrorizing them to ensure that they never return,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a briefing.

The U.N. report said opposition forces had also carried out armed attacks that caused civilian casualties.

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