Saturday, October 18, 2014 9:57 am
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Friday condemned the recent abductions of its personnel at the airfield in Malakal and demanded the safe release of those still being detained.This is contained in a statement from UNMISS released to UN correspondents in New York.
In the statement, UNMISS emphasised the responsibility of the Government of South Sudan under the Status of Forces Agreement with the organisation to protect UN personnel, “irrespective of the identity of the abductors.”
It stated that three contractors employed by UNMISS, who were working at the airfield, were seized on Oct. 10, by an unidentified armed group of 15 to 20 men in uniformed and civilian clothes, and driven away in a pick-up truck.Two of the three, it added, were released the next day, while the third is still missing.
The mission recalled that on Thursday, a staff member of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), was similarly seized by a group of armed men at the same airfield while he was in the process of boarding a UN flight.He is still missing, it added.
It noted that there is still a lack of clarity on the identity of the abductors, and various authorities and commanders have assured UNMISS and WFP they are making all efforts to track down the abductors and secure the release of the two abducted individuals.
It stated that UNMISS and WFP were actively involved in efforts to secure the release of the abductees, and urged the authorities and commanders to redouble their efforts to locate and free them
On Sept. 9, UNMISS said an initial investigation had revealed that UN helicopter that crashed near Bentiu, South Sudan, late August, was shot down.
According to a press release from the Mission, experts who concluded the first stage of their investigations uncovered evidence on the circumstances of the crash of a UN Mi-8 helicopter on Aug. 26.
The evidence indicated that the aircraft was shot down in Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan’s Unity State.
For the past two weeks, the Mission has been conducting preliminary investigations into the crash which killed three Russian crewmen and injured a fourth.In addition to the Mission’s own probe which began right after the crash, a technical investigation has also started with the participation of the United Nations, South Sudanese and Russian experts.
The Mission has also confirmed that, during a phone call with a staff member in Bentiu on Aug. 17, Peter Gadet, the commander of opposition forces in Unity State alleged that UNMISS aircraft were being used to transport Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops and threatened to shoot down the Mission’s aircraft.
According to UNMISS, the staff member refuted the accusations and, to ensure the safety of its aircraft, the Mission immediately started sharing information on all its flights into Bentiu with the opposition forces as well as the SPLA.The Mission notes that these findings come as a preliminary probe, it is premature at this stage to conclusively apportion blame for the shooting down of the helicopter.A more in-depth technical investigation, which is being conducted in compliance with international air safety standards, UNMISS said is underway.