Foreign arms fuel south Sudanese violence, amnesty report says

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Weapons from Ukraine, China and Sudan are fueling clashes between South Sudan's government and rebel militias that have killed civilians and forced thousands to flee their homes, Amnesty International said.

South Sudanese government forces used Ukraine-supplied T-72 tanks to bombard targets in oil-rich Unity state and "failed to discriminate adequately between civilians and military targets" in violation of international law, the London-based rights group said Thursday in an e-mailed report. Rebels in the area received weapons from Sudan and planted Chinese-made landmines, it said.

South Sudanese forces haven't targeted civilians, army spokesman Philip Aguer said in a phone interview from Juba, the capital. Civilians may have been caught in the crossfire when the army assaulted militias backed by Sudan, he said.

"Governments must immediately stop supplying South Sudan with conventional arms which have been used to commit violations of international humanitarian and human rights law until adequate systems of training and accountability are in place," Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International's Africa Director, said in the statement.

The T-72 tanks were purchased and delivered to South Sudan's army between 2007 and 2009 before the country's independence in violation of a European Union embargo on arms sales to Sudan, which covered the south at the time, according to the report.

"The clandestine delivery of these battle tanks from Ukraine to South Sudan in 2009 involved transfers via Kenya and Uganda and included shipping companies from Germany and Ukraine, and UK and Isle of Man-registered shell companies," Amnesty International said.

Civilian deaths

The tanks were used in an attack in October against militia forces in Unity state that killed "scores" of civilians, according to the report.

China is handling the weapons issue "prudently" and its "cooperation with Sudan does not violate" United Nations Security Council resolutions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters April 27 in Beijing.

Sudanse Foreign Ministry spokesman al-Obeid Murawih said on April 30 that his country doesn't use Chinese weapons.

Map showing the border zones involved in the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.

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