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‘Horror,’ UN Sec. Council says at S Sudan massacre

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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)

Map locates Bentiu, South Sudan.; 1c x 4 inches; 46.5 mm x 101 mm;

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)

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Thursday expressed “horror” at the recent massacre of several hundred civilians in South Sudan, while the U.S. ambassador to the world body said she fears a deepening human catastrophe.

The strongly worded Security Council statement deplored the killings last week in Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity state, as well as the use of radio broadcasts to “foment hate and sexual violence.” It said council members may be willing to impose sanctions if attacks on civilians continue.

“The world’s newest state is clearly on a precipice,” said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, who demanded that the nation’s leaders end the violence. “Failure to take bold action now very well could push South Sudan into a cycle of retaliatory ethnic killing, a deepening civil war, and an even more devastating humanitarian catastrophe.”

The condemnations come about 10 days after rebel fighters from the Nuer ethnic group took control of Bentiu and slaughtered non-Nuer civilians in the town mosque, the hospital and on streets, leaving “piles and piles” of bodies, according to the U.N.’s top aid official in the country.

Melker Mabeck, the outgoing head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in South Sudan, called the conflict’s ethnic component worrying.

“Because it can reach a point where the political efforts that we hope make progress might be overrun by these kinds of dynamics, so that even if a political solution is found the rifts between the different ethnic groups is too wide to bridge,” he said.

President Salva Kiir fired the country’s top military officer, Chief of Staff Gen. James Hoth Mai, further isolating the Nuer group politically. Mai is Nuer and his command position, which he held since 2009, was frequently cited as an example of the ethnic diversity of the government led by Kiir, an ethnic Dinka.

Mai’s removal further freezes a powerful minority out of top government positions, said Casie Copeland, a South Sudan analyst for the International Crisis Group.

“The move will make many Nuer who remain with the government nervous,” she said.

Kiir also relieved his director of military intelligence, a Nuer, following his testimony at a recent treason trial

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