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Six aid workers killed in South Sudan, UN says

Six aid workers were ambushed and killed in South Sudan, a UN official has said.

It is the deadliest attack on humanitarian workers since the East African nation's civil war began in 2013.

Eugene Owusu, the top UN humanitarian official in South Sudan, said in a statement on Sunday that the attack took place on the road from Juba, the capital, to Pibor, where there have been recent reports of fighting.

He did not identify the nationalities of the aid workers or their organisation.

The ambush is the latest of several attacks on aid workers in South Sudan, which is one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world.

At least 12 aid workers have been killed so far this year and 79 have been killed since civil war began in South Sudan.

"At a time when humanitarian needs have reached unprecedented levels, it is entirely unacceptable that those who are trying to help are being attacked and killed," said Mr Owusu.

Famine has been declared in two counties in South Sudan where one million people are on the brink of starvation and there is also a cholera outbreak in parts of the country.

But aid organisations responding to both famine and the cholera outbreak have been attacked by armed forces, according to the UN.

The ambush came the day that South Sudan's government declared a unilateral ceasefire and granted amnesty to armed groups who renounce violence.

South Sudan's government agreed to issue the ceasefire in response to pressure from East African countries during a regional summit in Nairobi, according to a joint statement after the meeting over the weekend.

The ceasefire and amnesty was immediately rejected by Mabior Garang, a spokesman for the opposition SPLM-IO party, who called it "silly" and a "non-starter".

"South Sudan's government usually declares cease-fires as a public relations gimmick or while under extreme external pressure to do so," said Alan Boswell, a researcher on South Sudan.

"Food deprivation is an extremely effective government tool to weaken, depopulate, and demoralise opposition areas."

East African nations have not succeeded in playing a constructive role to encourage an end to South Sudan's civil war.

Sudan and Uganda continue to be key entry points for weapons into South Sudan, according to a UN panel of experts report.

A peace agreement signed in 2015 has not stopped the fighting and last week six US senators called for negotiations for a new peace agreement.

"Whatever chance the (peace) agreement had is being squandered by the region and their inability to confront Kiir's government," a diplomat involved in monitoring South Sudan's peace deal told reporters.

South Sudan is now Africa's largest refugee crisis and more than 1.6 million people have fled the country.

AP

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