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South Sudan

‘There is no humanity here’

Scenes of death permeate nation

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, a displaced South Sudanese woman carries a plastic jerry can with water in the United Nations camp that has become home to thousands of displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

    In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, a displaced South Sudanese woman carries a plastic jerry can with water in the United Nations camp that has become home to thousands of displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, rebels proclaiming to be part of the Nuer tribe's infamous 'White Army' stand in the grounds of the hospital in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

    In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, rebels proclaiming to be part of the Nuer tribe's infamous 'White Army' stand in the grounds of the hospital in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, birds feed on a corpse left in the middle of a road leading from the airport to the United Nations camp which has become home to thousands of displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

    In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, birds feed on a corpse left in the middle of a road leading from the airport to the United Nations camp which has become home to thousands of displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, the body of a dead civilian remains in a room in the hospital in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

    In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, the body of a dead civilian remains in a room in the hospital in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, rebels sit in the now-emptied hospital in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

    In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, rebels sit in the now-emptied hospital in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, a displaced South Sudanese woman carries a plastic jerry can with water in the United Nations camp that has become home to thousands of displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, rebels proclaiming to be part of the Nuer tribe's infamous 'White Army' stand in the grounds of the hospital in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, birds feed on a corpse left in the middle of a road leading from the airport to the United Nations camp which has become home to thousands of displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, the body of a dead civilian remains in a room in the hospital in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, rebels sit in the now-emptied hospital in Malakal, South Sudan. A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal, while Human Rights Watch said Thursday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state, despite a cease-fire signed in January. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

House after house has been burned to the ground. Hospital patients have been shot by armed rebels while lying in their beds. Dozens of corpses litter the streets.

“This is about revenge now. There is no humanity here,” said Col. Jan Hoff, an officer in Norway’s army who has served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

South Sudan, he said, is the worst he’s seen.

“It’s absolutely horrific,” Hoff said this week as he led a heavily armed U.N. convoy through the streets of Malakal, the capital of oil-producing Upper Nile state. “This is tribe against tribe. In Syria it was foreign fighters against the government. Here I don’t think it’s about the government.”

A corpse nearby is already a skeleton wrapped in a soldier’s uniform. Hoff said he counted 30 bodies on a recent day. A colleague had counted 70. The dead include both civilians and soldiers.

Human Rights Watch said yesterday that both government and rebel forces are responsible for serious abuses that may amount to war crimes for atrocities committed in Malakal and Bentiu, another capital of an oil-producing state in South Sudan, despite a cease-fire signed in January. Reprisal killings, based on ethnicity, are commonplace.

“Armed forces from both sides have extensively looted and destroyed civilian property, including desperately needed aid facilities, targeted civilians, and carried out extrajudicial executions, often based on ethnicity,” said Human Rights Watch, which called the destruction and violence “shocking.”

A week ago forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar retook Malakal in a bloody assault that forced the government army to make what it labeled a tactical withdrawal.

Government officials this week said they would retake the town, but on Wednesday, as the U.N. convoy drove through, there was no sign of South Sudan’s army. The only talk was how rebels were pushing north toward the oil fields that provide the world’s newest nation it’s only income.

After the U.N. personnel alighted from their vehicles to tour the Malakal hospital, the smell of death and sight of destruction overwhelmed. The hospital, now filled with heavily armed rebel soldiers, is ransacked and empty of patients. Inside is a scattering of dead bodies, including those clearly executed in their beds. Flies are everywhere.

The U.N. has classified South Sudan as a level 3 emergency that puts it on par with Syria’s crisis. As South Sudan’s rainy season approaches there are fears that the hundreds of thousands displaced by fighting will not be able to plant crops, an event that the U.N. aid chief says could precipitate a famine.

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