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South Sudan violence could amount to ‘war crimes’: Amnesty

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Fighting between armed groups aligned with government and opposition forces in South Sudan this year subjected civilians to “unimaginable violence” that could amount to war crimes, Amnesty International said Thursday.

The rights watchdog documented fighters on all sides indiscriminately murdering and mutilating civilians and razing entire villages during an upsurge in fighting between June and October in the Western Equatoria region.

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The clashes around Tambura county split along ethnic lines after politicians stirred local grievances and encouraged young people to take up arms, Amnesty said in a new report.

But the “death, destruction and division” that followed involved not just local combatants but fighters aligned to rival political factions in Juba, suggesting wider forces at play.

“The testimonies we have gathered speak of unimaginable violence, including civilians killed as they fled and bodies set on fire and mutilated,” said Amnesty’s regional director, Deprose Muchena.

“That the attacks not only involved local groups, but also fighters affiliated to government and opposition forces, indicates this is much more than inter-communal violence.”

South Sudan attained independence in 2011 but plunged into a brutal civil war two years later that killed nearly 400,000 people and forced millions to flee.

A ceasefire was signed and a new coalition government formed in early 2020 between the political rivals, who promised to bring their forces under one banner and rebuild their shattered country.

But the process has stalled and distrust is deepening between President Salva Kiir and his deputy, former rebel leader Riek Machar.

Key provisions of the peace deal have not been honored, and fighters loyal to each man remain bitterly divided.

Amnesty said the violence in Western Equatoria could be traced to Machar being allocated the state under the power-sharing deal, and appointing a governor opposed by some in the community.

The bloodshed pitted two ethnic groups against one another, with dozens of civilians killed in tit-for-tat exchanges and tens of thousands forced to flee.

Witnesses told Amnesty that fighters “summarily killed civilians by shooting them or slitting their throats”, sometimes in front of their children and other family members.

“Deliberately targeting civilians and the murder of captives are war crimes,” Amnesty said.

Schools in Tambura had also been used as barracks and hospitals plundered by fighters on all sides, the watchdog said.

The instability comes as South Sudan endures its worst flooding since 1962, with months of rain affecting more than 760,000 people.

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US considering moving troops from Western Europe to Eastern Europe: NATO diplomat

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The United States is considering transferring some troops stationed in Western Europe to Eastern Europe in the coming weeks, a NATO diplomat told Reuters, amid escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

“This has to do with American troops that are already in Europe,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirming a New York Times report that said US President Joe Biden was considering sending US troops to the Baltics and Eastern European allies.

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NATO said on Monday it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets, in what Russia denounced as an escalation of tensions over Ukraine.

The diplomat said the potential troop movements would be gradual and that any filling of NATO gaps on its eastern flank could take place in the coming weeks.

Read more: From Kyiv, top US diplomat warns Russia against Ukraine aggression

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Several wounded in shooting in German city; gunman dead

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A lone gunman wounded several people at a lecture theater in the southwestern German city of Heidelberg on Monday, police said.

Police said in a brief statement that the perpetrator was dead, but didn’t give details of how that happened. They had earlier asked people on Twitter to avoid the Neuenheimer Feld area of Heidelberg, where the city’s university campus is located.

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Police didn’t specify how many people were wounded, or how seriously, and there was no information on their identities or that of the suspected shooter. The university’s press office declined to give any details on the shooting and referred all inquiries to police.

German news agency dpa cited unidentified security sources as saying that the gunman killed himself.

Police said the weapon used in the shooting was a long-barreled firearm.

Heidelberg is located south of Frankfurt and has about 160,000 inhabitants. Its university is one of Germany’s best-known.

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Aramco CEO says oil demand nearing pre-pandemic levels: Report

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Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Al Nasser said that the demand for oil is nearing pre-pandemic levels, Asharq Business reported in a tweet on Monday.

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