Rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) kidnapped six aid workers – including one Bangladeshi national and local nationals - from Solidarity International, HealthNet, and local NGOs on Sunday, December 17. The incident occurred on the road between Raga and Wau (Lol State, Western Bahr el Ghazal region). According to the rebel force spokesperson, the victims were abducted to rescue the aid workers from ongoing armed clashes in the area. The SPLA-IO confirmed that four of the victims are currently safe and will be released soon. The whereabouts of the two others victims are yet unknown.
Cases of kidnappings have been on the rise in South Sudan since March 2017, particularly against oil and humanitarian workers. Furthermore, more than 90 aid workers have been killed since the conflict broke out in 2013, including 28 in 2017.
South Sudan has been wracked by years of political, interethnic, and intercommunal violence - exacerbated by border and oil revenue disputes with Sudan. Following the 2011 signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that gave the country its independence from Sudan, the predominantly north-south conflict has given way to a pattern of internal violence. Since December 2013, the country has experienced an intermittent civil war waged between the government of President Salva Kiir and the SPLA on one side, and the former Vice-President Riek Machar and the SPLA-IO on the other. The conflict has continued despite international support for state-building and peace-keeping - including the 12,000-strong United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), deployed since 2011. The number of South Sudanese citizens displaced by the conflict currently stands at some 3.5 million.
Many Western governments advise against nonessential travel to South Sudan. Certain regions should be particularly avoided, including the states of Unity and Upper Nile, the north of Warrap state, parts of Eastern and Central Equatoria states, and areas along the border with the Central African Republic, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If travel is necessary, ensure that proper security protocols are in place.
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