More UN peacekeepers in South Sudan

2011-12-31 20:09

Juba - The United Nations has reinforced its peacekeepers in the flashpoint South Sudan town of Pibor and is airlifting food to the region, where tribal violence has prompted thousands to flee, a senior UN official said Saturday.

"We have deployed a battalion-sized force in Pibor to support the government to protect civilians," Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, told AFP, adding that the provision of food aid was an "urgent step".

She said the peacekeeping reinforcement had occurred within the past three days, with a company of blue helmets being the latest addition on Friday.

"We are extremely concerned about the massing of the Lou Nuer youth," in that part of Jonglei state, Grande said.

An estimated 500 members of the Lou Nuer tribe - among 6 000 armed youth who have been marching towards Pibor - were already on the town's outskirts, the United Nations warned on Friday.

To assist those left in the town, the UN's World Food Programme flew in a helicopter with food on Saturday, Grande said, after plans for an airlift on Friday were suspended following reports that security was deteriorating.

"As of yesterday there was no food in Pibor, so this was an urgent step," Grande said.

"We're going to try to assist several thousand people for up to two weeks," she added. "But of course that depends on security conditions."