UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said on Friday that at least 20 of the civilians who sought refuge in a UN base in the country's northeast have been killed in an attack, which also left two Indian peacekeepers dead.
"UNMISS estimates that at least 20 of the civilians who sought refuge inside the base were killed during the attack" which occurred in Akobo town, Jonglei State, on Thursday, UNMISS said in a statement.
The mission also confirmed that two Indian peacekeepers were killed and one other injured while defending the base against the unknown assailants.
It was the first announcement of UN fatalities from this week's upsurge of ethnic-based violence in the country.
When the attack happened, 43 Indian peacekeepers, six UN police advisers and two UN civilian staffers were at the base, which also housed about 30 South Sudanese seeking shelter from the turmoil plaguing areas of Akobo County, the mission said on Thursday.
The injured Indian peacekeeper was airlifted by UNMISS to Malakal, where "he is reported to be in stable condition," it said.
Meanwhile, UNMISS dispatched four helicopters on Friday to flow all UN personnel, seven South Sudanese civilians and a dozen staff members of non-governmental organizations out of Akobo to Malakal, the mission said.
"Operations are underway to evacuate 40 UNMISS peacekeepers from a base in the Jonglei state town of Yuai this afternoon," it added.
"The UN Mission in South Sudan condemns in the strongest possible terms the unprovoked attack on its base in the Jonglei state town of Akobo on the afternoon of Thursday," the mission said.
It also expresses its condolences to the families and friends of its fallen colleagues who were deployed in Akobo to help protect South Sudanese civilians.
"I deplore this unjustified and unwarranted attack on the United Nations Mission base in Akobo, killing peacekeepers that were here to protect civilians and serve the people of South Sudan, " said Hilde Frafjord Johnson, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for South Sudan. "It is a criminal act for which the responsible must be held accountable. Such attacks will not deter us from continuing to discharge our mandate."
UNMISS has more than 6,800 troops and police in the country, which gained independence after seceding from Sudan less than three years ago and has been thrown into turmoil since Sunday when, according to the South Sudanese government, soldiers loyal to former Deputy President Riek Machar, dismissed in July, launched an attempted coup. Hundreds of people have been killed since then, according to reports.