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‘Piles and piles’ of bodies in South Sudan slaughter

  • EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT In this image taken from video dead bodies lie on the road near Bentiu South Sudan on Sunday April 20, 2014. U.N.'s top humanitarian official in south Sudan Toby Lanzer  told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday April 23, 2014, that the ethnically targeted killings are "quite possibly a game-changer" for a conflict that has been raging since mid-December and that has exposed longstanding ethnic hostilities. There was also a disturbing echo of Rwanda, which is marking the 20th anniversary this month of its genocide that killed 1 million people. "It's the first time we're aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities," said Lanzer, who was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday. "And that really accelerates South Sudan's descent into an even more difficult situation from which it needs to extract itself." (AP Photo/Toby Lanzer, United Nations)

    EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT In this image taken from video dead bodies lie on the road near Bentiu South Sudan on Sunday April 20, 2014. U.N.'s top humanitarian official in south Sudan Toby Lanzer told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday April 23, 2014, that the ethnically targeted killings are "quite possibly a game-changer" for a conflict that has been raging since mid-December and that has exposed longstanding ethnic hostilities. There was also a disturbing echo of Rwanda, which is marking the 20th anniversary this month of its genocide that killed 1 million people. "It's the first time we're aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities," said Lanzer, who was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday. "And that really accelerates South Sudan's descent into an even more difficult situation from which it needs to extract itself." (AP Photo/Toby Lanzer, United Nations)

  • In this image taken from video people travel on the road near Bentiu South Sudan on Sunday April 20, 2014. U.N.'s top humanitarian official in south Sudan Toby Lanzer  told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday April 23, 2014, that the ethnically targeted killings are "quite possibly a game-changer" for a conflict that has been raging since mid-December and that has exposed longstanding ethnic hostilities. There was also a disturbing echo of Rwanda, which is marking the 20th anniversary this month of its genocide that killed 1 million people. "It's the first time we're aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities," said Lanzer, who was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday. "And that really accelerates South Sudan's descent into an even more difficult situation from which it needs to extract itself." (AP Photo/Toby Lanzer, United Nations)

    In this image taken from video people travel on the road near Bentiu South Sudan on Sunday April 20, 2014. U.N.'s top humanitarian official in south Sudan Toby Lanzer told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday April 23, 2014, that the ethnically targeted killings are "quite possibly a game-changer" for a conflict that has been raging since mid-December and that has exposed longstanding ethnic hostilities. There was also a disturbing echo of Rwanda, which is marking the 20th anniversary this month of its genocide that killed 1 million people. "It's the first time we're aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities," said Lanzer, who was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday. "And that really accelerates South Sudan's descent into an even more difficult situation from which it needs to extract itself." (AP Photo/Toby Lanzer, United Nations)

  • EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT In this image taken from video dead bodies lie on the road near Bentiu South Sudan on Sunday April 20, 2014. U.N.'s top humanitarian official in South Sudan Toby Lanzer  told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday April 23, 2014, that the ethnically targeted killings are "quite possibly a game-changer" for a conflict that has been raging since mid-December and that has exposed longstanding ethnic hostilities. There was also a disturbing echo of Rwanda, which is marking the 20th anniversary this month of its genocide that killed 1 million people. "It's the first time we're aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities," said Lanzer, who was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday. "And that really accelerates South Sudan's descent into an even more difficult situation from which it needs to extract itself." (AP Photo/Toby Lanzer, United Nations)

    EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT In this image taken from video dead bodies lie on the road near Bentiu South Sudan on Sunday April 20, 2014. U.N.'s top humanitarian official in South Sudan Toby Lanzer told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday April 23, 2014, that the ethnically targeted killings are "quite possibly a game-changer" for a conflict that has been raging since mid-December and that has exposed longstanding ethnic hostilities. There was also a disturbing echo of Rwanda, which is marking the 20th anniversary this month of its genocide that killed 1 million people. "It's the first time we're aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities," said Lanzer, who was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday. "And that really accelerates South Sudan's descent into an even more difficult situation from which it needs to extract itself." (AP Photo/Toby Lanzer, United Nations)

  • EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT In this image taken from video dead bodies lie on the road near Bentiu South Sudan on Sunday April 20, 2014. U.N.'s top humanitarian official in south Sudan Toby Lanzer  told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday April 23, 2014, that the ethnically targeted killings are "quite possibly a game-changer" for a conflict that has been raging since mid-December and that has exposed longstanding ethnic hostilities. There was also a disturbing echo of Rwanda, which is marking the 20th anniversary this month of its genocide that killed 1 million people. "It's the first time we're aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities," said Lanzer, who was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday. "And that really accelerates South Sudan's descent into an even more difficult situation from which it needs to extract itself." (AP Photo/Toby Lanzer, United Nations)
  • In this image taken from video people travel on the road near Bentiu South Sudan on Sunday April 20, 2014. U.N.'s top humanitarian official in south Sudan Toby Lanzer  told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday April 23, 2014, that the ethnically targeted killings are "quite possibly a game-changer" for a conflict that has been raging since mid-December and that has exposed longstanding ethnic hostilities. There was also a disturbing echo of Rwanda, which is marking the 20th anniversary this month of its genocide that killed 1 million people. "It's the first time we're aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities," said Lanzer, who was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday. "And that really accelerates South Sudan's descent into an even more difficult situation from which it needs to extract itself." (AP Photo/Toby Lanzer, United Nations)
  • EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT In this image taken from video dead bodies lie on the road near Bentiu South Sudan on Sunday April 20, 2014. U.N.'s top humanitarian official in South Sudan Toby Lanzer  told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday April 23, 2014, that the ethnically targeted killings are "quite possibly a game-changer" for a conflict that has been raging since mid-December and that has exposed longstanding ethnic hostilities. There was also a disturbing echo of Rwanda, which is marking the 20th anniversary this month of its genocide that killed 1 million people. "It's the first time we're aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities," said Lanzer, who was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday. "And that really accelerates South Sudan's descent into an even more difficult situation from which it needs to extract itself." (AP Photo/Toby Lanzer, United Nations)

The townspeople believed the mosque was safe. They crammed inside as rebel forces in South Sudan took control of the town from government troops. But it wasn’t safe. Robbers grabbed their cash and cell phones. Then gunmen came and opened fire on everyone, young and old.

The U.N. said hundreds of civilians were killed in the massacre last week in Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan’s oil-producing Unity state, a tragic reflection of long-standing ethnic hostilities in the world’s newest country.

“Piles and piles” of bodies were left behind after the shootings, said Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in South Sudan. Many were in the mosque. Others were in the hospital. Still more littered the streets. The violence appears to have been incited in part by calls on the radio for revenge attacks, including rapes.

The attack, which targeted members of certain ethnic groups, was a disturbing echo of what happened two decades ago in another country in eastern Africa. Rwanda is marking the 20th anniversary this month of a genocide that killed an estimated 1 million people.

Thousands of people have been killed in violence in South Sudan since December, when presidential guards splintered and fought along ethnic lines. The violence later spread across the country as soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, tried to put down a rebellion led by Riek Machar, the former vice president and an ethnic Nuer.

But Lanzer told the Associated Press yesterday that the mass killings, carried out by Nuers, are “quite possibly a game-changer” in the conflict.

“It’s the first time we’re aware of that a local radio station was broadcasting hate messages encouraging people to engage in atrocities,” Lanzer said.

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