East Africa

South Sudan Army slaughters Christian civilians in Pajok

Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has attacked the predominantly Christian town of Pajok killing

dozens of people, according to reports coming from the Magwi County of the Eastern Equatoria state of South Sudan.

Over 3,000 South Sudanese are reported to have fled into Uganda on Tuesday when government troops stormed the village and killed people as they fled, including women and children.

Pastor Mondaa who escaped the slaughter said the entire town of about 10,000 was now deserted: “There is nobody there now. It is completely empty. If they catch anybody, they will kill them.”

Oriem Pol a 17-year-old who escaped said a group of men including his father were caught lined up against a wall and shot, an account corroborated by other witnesses who said men wearing uniforms of the South Sudan army arrested more than 10 young people and executed them.

Oriem said his friend, Torencio, was “slaughtered the next morning.” The friend was kept only long enough to dig the graves bury those killed.

Another witness, Priem Pol, told reporters that his mother lay in the dirt beside the road only 15 meters from the Ugandan military checkpoint too distraught to speak.

“If you ran you got shot; if you got arrested you got slaughtered,” said 35-year-old Lokang Jacky. “There were women who got shot. We just slept in the bush and then at 6 this morning we started walking.”

Monday morning, Land Cruisers and pickup trucks stormed into the town from the north, east and west, blocking escape routes, shooting at every one on sight, he said.

In response to the reports, deputy spokesman for the army, Brigadier General Santo Dominic, said the troops had killed only ‘bandits’. “We decided to flush the SPLM-IO force out and as a result 16 soldiers were left on the ground with some number of individual weapons.”

The deputy SPLA spokesman Col. Santo Domic Chol, in his reaction, said. “We have decided to deploy a detachment at Pajok permanently in order to take care of the civil population there.”

The SPLM-IO rebel faction in the area however denied the government’s claim saying the government simply decided “to take the fight to civilians”.

Lam Paul Gabriel, spokesman for the rebel SPLM-IO, said it was the soldiers who shot and looted. He said a community leader who went to rescue students trapped in a primary school was shot and killed by the army.

“They also went to a health unit and found a health worker, and he was slaughtered,” Gabriel said. “They grabbed everything from the school, they destroyed the hospital completely, especially in the market center, and they destroyed all the shops and looted everything from the shops.”

Both Dominic and Gabriel said 16 people had been killed.

Nurse Margaret Alloyo said the SPLA forces attacked the town’s hospital, ransacking wards and medical supplies while taking staff hostage.

“We just ran,” Alloyo said. “I spoke to a colleague at the hospital, but she said she had been detained. I don’t know what has happened to her. Now the calls do not go through.”

Ugandan intelligence officials on the border told Reuters rebel militiamen had been in the area, but said the attack on Pajok was unquestionably SPLA.

Tobiolo Alberio Oromo, governor of Imotong state, admitting the presence of the South Sudanese troops in Pajok, said he didn’t have enough information to report casualty figures.

“I received a call from one of the community leaders on the ground, and [he] informed me that there is fighting on the ground,” he told VOA. “Then this morning I managed to get information, and they say the situation needs the state government to come in… I want to make sure that I go to the area, and if people have fled the area, they must come back as well, as to ensure humanitarian workers assess the situation,” he said.