S Sudan troops, rebels block peacekeepers

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iol pic afr_SOUTH SUDAN-TALKS_0509_11 Reuters Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (right) looks on as South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar (centre) and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (left) exchange signed peace agreement documents in Addis Ababa. File picture: Goran Tomasevic

Juba -

Warring forces in South Sudan are continuing to block United Nations peacekeepers as the civil war that has devastated the young nation continues to rage, the UN said on Thursday.

The UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said both government and rebels had blocked their patrols, including in the flashpoint oil-state of Unity, one of the areas hardest hit by fighting.

“There has been several incidents of restricted or denied access for UNMISS patrols in Unity and other states,” the mission said in a statement.

“Also among opposition forces we have experienced similar unacceptable impediments.”

Despite heavy international pressure, a second ceasefire this month for the world's youngest nation has crumbled, in a six-month war that has already claimed thousands - possibly tens of thousands - of lives.

Four million people - one third of the population - are at risk of starvation in the young African state, according to the UN.

Both sides were “disrupting the mission's operations and exposing its personnel to serious security risks,” the UN added.

Government security forces have “assaulted and illegally detained” two UN staff members in the capital Juba, it said.

South Sudan's government has been at war with rebel groups since December 15, when a clash between troops loyal to President Kiir and those loyal to Riek Machar, who was sacked as vice president, escalated into full-scale fighting. - Sapa-AFP

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