Women displaced in recent fighting queue to receive relief supplies as they camp at the Kator Catholic cathedral compound in Juba, South Sudan, July 12, 2016. Picture: REUTERS
Women displaced in recent fighting queue to receive relief supplies as they camp at the Kator Catholic cathedral compound in Juba, South Sudan, July 12, 2016. Picture: REUTERS

Juba — South Sudanese government forces and rebels used hunger as a weapon of war in a region once seen as the country’s breadbasket and now ravaged by killings, gang rapes and looting over the past year, Amnesty International said.

Civilians’ access to food in the southern region of Equatoria, where conflict spread in July 2016, was "severely limited" after combatants cut supplies, looted from markets and homes and targeted civilians, the advocacy group said on Tuesday.

It said fighters from each side accused civilians of feeding or being fed by the enemy.

"It is a cruel tragedy of this war that South Sudan’s breadbasket — a region that a year ago could feed millions — has turned into treacherous killing fields that have forced close to a million to flee in search of safety," said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser.

Deputy army spokesman Santo Domic said the report had not been shared with the military and was biased.

The civil war in South Sudan has left tens of thousands of people dead and forced more than 3.5-million from their homes since it started in December 2013. Food availability is worsening due to a poor harvest and surging inflation.

The UN says 6-million people face severe shortages in some parts of South Sudan.

Amnesty said government forces and allied militias had committed "a litany of violations with impunity", while armed opposition groups had also staged "grave abuses, albeit on a smaller scale".

Much of the violence has centred on the town of Yei, about 150km south of the capital, Juba. Amnesty said witnesses described how government forces and allied militias "deliberately killed civilians with reckless abandon".

Bloomberg

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