The United Nations is launching an investigation into its response to deadly violence that erupted at a protection of civilians site in South Sudan last month, the organization announced Friday. Fighting at the U.N. site -- which is supposed to be a safe haven from the country's conflict -- killed at least 18 people, including two aid workers, on Feb. 17 and 18.
Nearly 50,000 people had taken shelter in the Malakal protection site since South Sudan plunged into civil war in 2013. The conflict has left thousands dead and displaced over 2 million. Some of the internally displaced persons who sought refuge at the Malakal site have now been forced to move once again, after their shelters burned down in the fighting.
“I am outraged by what I have seen in Malakal,” Kyung-wha Kang, the United Nations assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator, said during a visit to the site after the fighting. “Those responsible for these heinous acts must be held to account."
Earlier this month, the U.N. human rights office detailed in a report the many atrocities being committed by armed militias and South Sudanese government forces in the nation's conflict. Witness accounts in the report accuse these forces of horrific and widespread rights abuses, including mass rape, torture and murder of civilians, including children.
Much of the violence in South Sudan has occurred between different ethnic groups. The fighting in Malakal is believed to have begun after a violent dispute between two ethnic groups at the site, according to U.N. peacekeepers.
In a series of photos released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, images show a glimpse of the aftermath of the fighting and some of the people it displaced.
At least 18 people were killed, more than 90 wounded and humanitarian facilities and civilian shelters destroyed during the fighting that took place on Feb. 17 and 18 in Malakal.
A South Sudanese man named Martino Shows where he was shot on Feb. 17.
"They entered here at night and burnt shelters, they had guns and bullets and gave some to their tribesmen. There are still some dead bodies in the houses."
OCHA/Guiomar Pau Sole
Many people were displaced by the violence in Malakal. Humanitarian agencies have rapidly mobilized additional supplies to respond to the new needs generated by the violence.
Photos show the devastation left by the violence in Malakal.
Akech, a 70-year-old displaced woman, stays at an abandoned school building in Malakal town. She fled the U.N. Protection of Civilians site after the violence on Feb. 17 and 18.
Abil Galwa lost everything when her shelter was burnt down. “I have lost all I had. Everything is gone. I don’t even have shoes left."
“I am outraged by what I have seen in Malakal,” declared Kyung-wha Kang, U.N. assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator, who visited Malakal on Feb. 26.
People peacefully demonstrated and carried signs while waiting on the site of the road for the UN convoy to pass by in Malakal, Feb. 26, 2016.
Demonstrators hold signs as the United Nations convoy visiting Malakal passes by on Feb. 26.
UNOCHA/Guiomar Pau Sole
Displaced women sit in the ashes of their shelter, which was burned during the fighting and fires on Feb. 17 and 18 in Malakal, South Sudan.
OCHA / Guiomar Pau Sole
A displaced woman takes care of a baby at an abandoned school building in Malakal town. She fled the U.N. site after the violence on Feb. 17 and 18.
OCHA/Guiomar Pau Sole
These children were living at the U.N. site and fled after the attack. They have taken refuge in a school inside the city of Malakal.