UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon said Thursday that he was "deeply concerned about continued reports of growing violence in many parts of South Sudan, human rights abuses and killings fueled by ethnic tensions."
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) "is doing everything it can, within its means and in a very fluid situation, to protect civilians, as well as United Nations and international personnel on the ground," said a statement issued here by Ban's spokesman.
"The secretary-general was appalled to learn of the attack today on an UNMISS base in Akobo, where civilians had taken refuge. There are indications that civilians may have been killed and wounded in the attack ... Should these reports prove true, those responsible must be held accountable for their crimes," said the statement.
More than 30,000 people have sought refuge on United Nations bases in South Sudan from fighting between the government and rebels, with fatalities reported in an attack on one of the sites, top UN officials said Thursday, pledging their best efforts to protect civilians in danger.
A UN base in Akobo in restive Jonglei state was attacked, with reports of unspecified loss of life, Deputy UN Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a press conference here Thursday, adding " Political dialogue is the only way to prevent further escalation."
Later in the day, UNMISS strongly condemned the attack carried out by unknown assailants. At the time, 43 Indian peacekeepers, six UN police advisers and two UN civilian staffers were present at the base. About 30 South Sudanese had sought shelter from the turmoil plaguing areas of Akobo County, the Mission said in a statement.
The UN Mission has been on the ground since July 2011, when South Sudan became independent from neighboring Sudan, to consolidate peace and security and to help establish conditions for development.
"The secretary-general supports the initiative of the ministers of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to support dialogue among political opponents," the statement said. "He calls on the government and political opposition to make good use of this opportunity to restore security and the democratic process in South Sudan."
"Above all, the secretary-general appeals to the principal leaders concerned to live up to their individual responsibilities to the people of South Sudan," the statement said. "The future of this young nation requires its current leadership to do everything possible to prevent South Sudan descending into the chaos that would be such a betrayal of the ideals behind its long struggle for independence."
Media reports said hundreds of people have been killed since the clashes among forces of the Sudan People's Liberation Army in the capital Juba over the weekend, following what South Sudanese President Salva Kiir's government says was an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, who was removed in July.
On Wednesday, the secretary-general reached out to key leaders in the region seeking a political end to the crisis, while the UN Security Council urged all parties to immediately cease hostilities and exercise restraint to prevent the further spreading of violence.