18 killed in clashes at U.N. compound in South Sudan

People flee violence that erupted at a United Nations base that houses more than 40,000 displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan.

Story highlights

  • Doctors Without Borders says two of its staffers were among 18 people killed
  • Officials say fighting erupted between two ethnic groups at the UN compound
  • The site, a Doctors Without Borders official says, "should be a sanctuary"

(CNN)Clashes inside a United Nations compound in South Sudan killed at least 18 people, including two Doctors Without Borders staffers, the organization said Thursday.

The fighting erupted Wednesday evening and continued Thursday at a U.N. civilian protection site in the northeastern city of Malakal, officials said. Doctors Without Borders teams reported treating dozens of wounded.
    Youths from the Shilluk and Dinka ethnic groups fought using small arms, machetes and other weapons, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan said in a statement condemning the violence.
    U.N. police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, the mission said. Officials released photos showing smoke billowing in the sky above the compound.
    Clashes sent large plumes of smoke rising from burning tents in the camp.
    The site is one of six U.N. bases housing nearly 200,000 people displaced by violence in the country, according to the mission. More than 47,000 people have taken shelter at the Malakal site. The number of people living there more than doubled last year, Doctors Without Borders said.
    Many of them came from areas where there had been no aid for months, the organization said, and most arrived without any possessions.
    It's a place where people go seeking protection, said Marcus Bachmann, coordinator of Doctors Without Borders projects in South Sudan.
    "This should be a sanctuary respected by all parties," he said.
    A South Sudanese civilian speaks with UN peacekeepers at the United Nations base in the northeastern town of Malakal as clashes continued there Thursday.
    U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that "any attack directed against civilians, U.N. premises and peacekeepers may constitute a war crime," his spokesman said in a statement.
    "He warns all parties against stoking ethnic disputes and calls on them to refrain from any actions or statements that could further escalate the situation," the statement said.
    The statement also called on South Sudan's leaders to implement a peace agreement to end fighting.
    South Sudan, the world's newest country, has been embroiled in one of the world's most brutal -- and under-reported -- conflicts since December 2013.
    Earlier this week South Sudan's President reinstated his vice president as part of a peace deal to end the country's two-year civil war.