Armed Men Kill South Sudan Journalist, Employer Says

13 Jul 2016

Armed Men Kill South Sudan Journalist, Employer Says

Armed men have shot and killed a local radio journalist during clashes in the capital, a media organization said Wednesday, and those who knew him said it appears he was targeted because of his ethnicity.

Jennifer Cobb, a spokeswoman for Internews, confirmed that John Gatluak was killed Monday at the compound of the upscale Terrain Hotel, where he had been taken for his safety after he was briefly arrested Friday night.

Internews is a U.S.-funded organization that assists radio stations in South Sudan.

The Rev. John Chuol, a representative of Gatluak's family, accused soldiers of killing the 32-year-old for being from the Nuer tribe, the same ethnicity as opposition leader Riek Machar. Many supporters of President Salva Kiir are from the Dinka tribe.

Gatluak was also an official with the South Sudan's National Editor's Forum, a journalist network. An NEF official, who insisted on speaking on condition of anonymity since he feared for his safety, said a photo he saw of Gatluak's body showed he was shot in the face and lying on his back.

"He's lying down, his two arms spread out this side and this side," the official said. "When I look at the photo, it looks like he raised his hands up as someone who is surrendering."

The U.N.'s special representative for the prevention of genocide has warned that soldiers have targeted civilians by ethnicity during the clashes that began last Thursday.

A massacre of Nuer in Juba sparked the country's civil war that began in December 2013, raged between supporters of Kiir and Machar, killed tens of thousands and came to a fragile end in August with a peace deal.

While a precarious calm has descended on Juba since both Kiir and Machar called for a cease-fire late Monday, fears persist that forces on both sides continue to target people for their ethnicity.

Some of the heaviest clashes in the past week in Juba took place near the Terrain Hotel as government troops attempted to oust the armed opposition from one of their bases.

By Monday afternoon, the opposition was in retreat. The NEF official said government soldiers stormed the Terrain Hotel as they were returning to the center of town.

There was no other person of Nuer ethnicity in the hotel compound, and no one else was killed, though one hotel employee was shot in the leg, the official said.

A photo of Gatluak posted on the Internews website shows that he had distinctive Nuer facial scars on his forehead, making his ethnicity easily identifiable.

The fighting since Thursday has left hundreds dead in the capital, and aid workers have said bodies remained in the streets.

The U.S. Embassy said it was arranging flights out of the country for Americans on Thursday. Italy's foreign ministry said air force aircraft landed Wednesday in Juba to evacuate 30 Italians. Germany's foreign ministry said its air force was evacuating German, European and other foreign citizens.

South Sudanese trying to flee the country by road reported attacks, killings and robberies by armed men.

Some tried to reach neighboring Uganda by road, but an Associated Press reporter spoke to people who had been wounded in attacks by armed men. Many cars had been shot at or burned. Government forces had erected roadblocks to demand money from those fleeing. Some people were sent back to Juba.

The U.N. refugee agency has expressed concern about the South Sudan-Uganda crossing, "where security is tightened on the South Sudan side," and it called on all armed parties to allow safe passage.

The U.N. has said 42,000 South Sudanese civilians have fled their homes due to the fighting.

In Juba, others took shelter in churches, U.N. bases and aid workers' compounds, but there were reports of government soldiers blocking aid workers from moving to areas where civilians need assistance.

"There is hardly any food in the market, and people are starving. As a result, they are turning to coping mechanisms like looting to survive," said Jeremiah Young, policy adviser for World Vision.

Meanwhile, fighting continued to spread to other parts of South Sudan. Shantal Persaud, the spokeswoman for the U.N. mission there, said it had received a report of small-arms fire in Leer town in Unity state Wednesday morning. The town is Machar's birthplace.


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