Bus blast in South Sudan kills 20

2011-10-12 20:47

Juba - An anti-tank mine reportedly blew up a civilian bus in South Sudan and killed 20 people, including four children, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

Sunday evening's incident in the central Unity state was reported to have killed 10 men, four women, four children and two soldiers, the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre told AFP.

"It appears that a bus containing a significant number of local people was on the road that was suspected to be mined, and the bus ran over what we suspect was an anti-tank mine," Unmacc programme manager Lance Malin said.

Unmacc said it has been unable to verify the accuracy of the reports, but it had evacuated five seriously wounded people to Malakal hospital from seven wounded people initially taken to Mayom hospital.

South Sudan officially seceded from the north on July 9 following a January referendum, after decades of civil war left the country in ruins. But Unmacc and other demining groups say new mines have being laid since the start of the year.

"It’s a significant problem and it’s suspected to be rebel militias that are sponsored by unknown sources," Malin said.

Many rebel groups have responded to South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s offer of amnesty, but major groups such as those led by renegade general and rebel leader George Athor and Peter Gadet still remain at large.

Gadet, a former rebel leader in the oil-rich Unity state, laid down his arms in response to Kiir's offer of amnesty in August, but some of his troops disowned the ceasefire and accused Gadet of accepting government bribes.

New mines

Of Sunday's incident, Terje Eldon, Mine Action Programme Manager for Norwegian People’s Aid in South Sudan, said: "These accidents could not have happened without somebody laying new mines, because the roads have been used for a long time."

Eldon said that since South Sudan opened up, demining agencies had cleared many roads.

The UN says the bus had used the road several times in previous days, despite it being classed as category four for land mine danger, meaning it should not be used.

Unmacc could not immediately give figures on how many people had been killed or wounded since January, but said there had been a marked rise in the number of landmine incidents.

With the dry season just weeks away, demining agencies expect militias to lay more mines.

Newly independent South Sudan faces a host of daunting challenges, including rampant corruption which Kiir has vowed to confront and the security threat from militias operating within its borders.