JUBA, April 7 (NNN-AGENCIES) -- UN peacekeepers in South Sudan say they have twice been prevented from accessing the town of Pajok, where the army is accused of killing civilians.

The peacekeepers say they are concerned about reports of fighting and attacks on civilians. They are calling to be allowed to visit the area in the south of the country.

Several thousand people have fled Pajok into neighbouring Uganda.

The army has denied targeting civilians and blamed the killings on bandits.

Some of the refugees said government troops shot their relatives as they ran, or arrested and then killed them.

Refugees in Uganda say soldiers arrived in Pajok on Sunday and began opening fire on residents at random.

A South Sudanese rebel group, the National Salvation Front, has called for an investigation.

South Sudan's civil war has caused more than 2.2m people to flee their homes.

The UN has said that ethnic cleansing is taking place and has warned of a possible genocide.

On Thursday, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) dismissed reports that a team of peacekeepers that had been dispatched by the United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) were prevented from accessing Pajok by the government forces.

According to the Eri Kaneko, the UN Associate Spokesperson, the peacekeepers were heading to the area to investigate and verify the confrontation between the armed opposition and government soldiers. It has been reported that civilians were trapped and gang raped, while others were targeted and killed.

Speaking at a news briefing at the UN headquarters in New York, Kaneko said their colleagues at UNMISS reported that UN peacekeepers were prevented from gaining access to Pajok in Eastern Equatoria by the SPLA.

"The UN mission's patrol was stopped at a checkpoint 7km outside Torit and was prevented from proceeding further. The patrol remained at the checkpoint in efforts to negotiate access, Kaneko said.

She continued to add that UNMISS was concerned with the reports and has called on the government to allow the mission access to Pajok with immediate effect, as per their obligation by the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) between the host country and the peacekeeping mission.

The agreement includes the protection of civilians and reporting human right violations.

Col Santo Domic Chol, the SPLA Deputy Spokesperson denied that their forces had attempted to prevent the UN peacekeepers getting into Pajok.

He claimed that the UN did not need permission from them and should coordinate their operations with the government, as stipulated under SOFA.

All this is not correct. We do not have such reports from our forces on the ground. We did not block anybody from doing their work. The United Nations mission in South Sudan has a mandate which does not need us to tell them where to go. They have the mandate to go out and verify whatever they have heard, but I must assure you that we did not block them," Col. Chol told reporters on Thursday when asked to comment on the reports of blockage. -- NNN-AGENCIES

Source: NAM News Network

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