NAIROBI, Kenya – U.N. investigators discovered a mass grave in a rebel-held city in South Sudan, the United Nations said Tuesday. The development came as a possible opening occurred for negotiations to avert civil war in the worlds newest country, where ethnic violence has erupted.
In New York, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to beef up its peacekeeping force in South Sudan. It condemned targeted violence against civilians and ethnic areas and called for a cease-fire and new talks.
The government, meanwhile, said its military forces had taken back another key city, Bor, from the rebels who held it over the last week.
The bodies were found in the town of Bentiu in oil-rich Unity state. One grave held 14 bodies and a site nearby contained 20 bodies, said Ravina Shamdasani, U.N. human rights office spokeswoman.
The government minister of information, Michael Makuei Lueth, said Bentiu is under the control of rebels loyal to the countrys former vice president, Riek Machar, indicating they were responsible for the killings.
The dead in Bentiu reportedly were ethnic Dinka who belonged to the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, said Shamdasani, referring to government military forces.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir is Dinka, the countrys largest ethnic group, while Machar is Nuer, the second-largest ethnic group.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Machar, who said he told Kerry he is ready for talks with Kiir.
I will form a high-level delegation, to which I will give full power to negotiate an accord, Machar told Radio France Internationale. We want Salva Kiir to quit power. We want a democratic nation and free and fair elections.
South Sudan, the worlds newest country, peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011 following a 2005 peace deal. Before that, the south fought decades of war with Sudan.