Soldiers in Juba. Picture: REUTERS
Soldiers in Juba. Picture: REUTERS

Juba — The UN has condemned a wave of sexual attacks on women and girls in South Sudan's northern town of Bentiu, which it said was in a government-controlled area.

 Aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Friday that unidentified gunmen raped 125 women in a 10-day spree of violence in Bentiu, but local officials disputed the report.

South Sudan has suffered five years of civil war. Despite a fragile peace accord signed two months ago by the government and rebel groups, it remains riven by ethnic grievances and awash with weapons. Civilians of rival groups bear the brunt of violence and revenge.

The UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said about 125 women and girls had sought medical treatment after being raped or sexually assaulted while walking along roads near Nhialdu and Guit on their way to Bentiu. Victims said attacks were carried out by young men in civilian clothing or military uniforms. They were also beaten and robbed, it said.

“The violent assaults happened in a government-controlled area,” said David Shearer, head of the UN missions “UNMISS peacekeepers have immediately sent patrols to the area to provide a protective presence and our human rights team has launched an investigation to identify the perpetrators.”

Shearer said the mission was “urging armed forces in the area to guarantee command and control over their troops to ensure rogue elements within their ranks are not involved in these criminal acts”.