This handout picture taken on April 15, 2014 and released on April 23 by the the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) shows debris outside the Kali-Ballee Mosque in the oil town of Bentiu, Unity State, on April 15, 2014. "More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded, " the UN mission in the country said, adding there were also massacres at a church, hospital and an abandoned UN World Food Programme (WFP) compound. South Sudan's army has been fighting rebels loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar, who launched a renewed offensive this month targeting key oil fields. AFP PHOTO / HO / UNMISS

Kerry pushes for peace in South Sudan
01:42 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

South Sudan has been embroiled in conflict since 2013

Violence has quickly spread, with reports of mass killings nationwide

CNN  — 

Armed groups raided a South Sudanese school and seized 89 children who were taking their exams, the United Nations said Saturday.

The abduction occurred near Malakal, where thousands of people have taken refuge following months of violence in the nation.

Kidnappers gathered around a community and conducted house-to-house searches, according to the U.N. children’s agency. It said the victims included boys over age 12, who were taken away by force.

U.N. officials warned the abductors that they’re violating international law.

“The recruitment and use of children by armed forces destroys families and communities,” said Jonathan Veitch, the UNICEF representative in South Sudan.

“Children are exposed to incomprehensible levels of violence, they lose their families and their chance to go to school.”

Internal conflict

South Sudan has been embroiled in conflict since December 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his fired deputy, Riek Machar, of trying to oust him through a coup.

Since then, militia loyal to both have battled each others’ forces. Violence has quickly spread, with reports of mass killings and starvation nationwide.

World’s youngest nation

Talks and repeated pleas for peace have yielded no results.

More than 1.5 million people have been displaced, according to the U.N., and thousands killed. Some civilians have fled to U.N. bases in the country, making the facilities targets for armed militants.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war, making it the world’s youngest nation.

Since the split, the nation has battled various setbacks, including violence divided along tribal lines – the Nuer community backs rebel leader Machar while the President is from the Dinka tribe.

The warring sides have signed ceasefire deals, but the bloodshed continues.