Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:24AM
A patient is being treated for multiple gunshot wounds at a hospital in the northeastern town of Malakal in South Sudan on February 5, 2014. ©AFP
A patient is being treated for multiple gunshot wounds at a hospital in the northeastern town of Malakal in South Sudan on February 5, 2014. ©AFP

Fighting in South Sudan has claimed the lives of at least 18 civilians, including two Doctors Without Borders (MSF) employees, the medical aid group says.

The fatalities were reported at a UN base sheltering civilians in the northeastern town of Malakal on Thursday. The group said those of its staff members killed in the violence were local Sudanese.

"This attack on civilians is outrageous and we demand that armed groups stop these actions," Marcus Bachmann, the coordinator of MSF projects in South Sudan, said in a statement.

People came to the camp "looking for protection and this should be a sanctuary respected by all parties," he said, adding, "MSF teams worked through the night to treat the injured. At least 25 of the initial intake of patients to the hospital had suffered gunshot wounds and eight of them required surgery."

The United Nations had earlier reported a death toll of five in the fighting that broke out late Wednesday and continued into Thursday. Gunmen from President Salva Kiir’s Dinka tribe and the Shilluk militia, which is led by army defector, Major General Johnson Olony, and comprises members of an ethnic community of the same name, were involved in the violence. 

South Sudan plunged into chaos in December 2013, when fighting erupted between troops loyal to the president and defectors led by his former deputy, Riek Machar (seen below), around the capital, Juba. The clashes left tens of thousands of people dead, and forced almost two million people from their homes. 

The two sides signed a peace accord last August, under which Machar is to return to Juba to assume responsibility as vice-president, a post from which he was sacked in 2013.

The belligerent sides' failure to act in line with the accord, however, has intensified the cycle of violence in the country.