Ten people were killed in a commercial plane crash in South Sudan's Jonglei state on Tuesday evening, a senior government official said Wednesday.
Denay Jock Chagor, Jonglei state governor, confirmed that all the passengers including two pilots on board the commercial plane succumbed to fatal injuries.
"It is with great shock to receive the news of the plane crash (HK-4274) of South Supreme Airline that happened on Tuesday, March 2 at around 5:05 p.m., local time at Pieri Airstrip in Uror County," Chagor said in a statement issued in Juba.
"Ten people including the two pilots lost their lives. Our prayers are with their families and loved ones. On my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Jonglei State, and the nation share this condolence message with the affected families and friends in these hours of grief," he added.
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Ayii Duang Ayii, general manager and owner of South Supreme Airlines in Juba, also confirmed the plane crash.
"Upon hearing the news, I called my airport staff to cross-check whether the airline was ours, but I was told that one of our planes that left Juba in the afternoon had not returned. So, we cannot really tell what went wrong," Ayii said.
Kur Kuol, director of the Juba International Airport, said the commercial plane crashed immediately after taking off.
Kuol said aviation authorities will investigate the case of the crash, adding that due to the poor network in the region, it was hard to establish the exact number of casualties.
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"We have sent a caravan this morning to go and do a thorough assessment about the exact number of people who were on board," Kuol said.
He said the plane has a maximum carrying capacity of 18 passengers.
Several planes have crashed in South Sudan since 2015, killing more than 100 people.
Hundreds of Nigerian girls abducted last week from a boarding school in the country's northwest have been released, a state governor said Tuesday, ending the latest in a spate of such kidnappings in the West African nation.
The girls, ages 10 and up, dressed in light blue hijabs and barefoot, packed into Zamfara state’s Government House conference room. They appeared calm, chatting to one another as they sat in long rows while journalists photographed them. They will receive a medical checkup before being returned to their parents.
Zamfara Gov. Bello Matawalle said that 279 girls had been freed after being abducted from the Government Girls Junior Secondary School in Jangebe town on Friday. The government last week said 317 had been kidnapped. It was not clear if the higher number was an error or if some girls were still missing.
“Alhamdulillah! (God be praised!) It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students,” Matawalle said in a post on Twitter early Tuesday. “I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe.”
Officials said “bandits” were behind the abduction, referring to the groups of armed men who operate in Zamfara state and kidnap for money or to push for the release of their members from jail.
At the time of the attack, one resident told The Associated Press that the gunmen also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from responding to the school.
One of the girls recounted the night of their abduction to the AP.
“We were sleeping at night when suddenly we started hearing gunshots. They were shooting endlessly. We got out of our beds and people said we should run, that they are thieves,” she said. Officials ended the interview before the girl could give her name.
The attackers eventually found her and some classmates and held guns to their heads, she said.
“I was really afraid of being shot,” she said, adding that they asked for directions to the staff quarters and the principal. “We said we don’t know who she is.”
Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings in recent years, the most notorious in 2014, when 276 girls were abducted by the jihadist rebels of Boko Haram from the secondary school in Chibok in Borno state. More than 100 of those girls are still missing.
Boko Haram is opposed to western education and its fighters often target schools. But most attacks in the northwest are perpetrated by armed criminal groups with no such ideology.
Police and the military have been trying to rescue the girls from the Zamfara abduction, which caused international outrage. Officials did not say if a ransom had been paid for their release
“We have been in discussion since Friday with the abductors and reached agreement on Monday,” the governor said, adding that he would ensure additional security at all schools in the state.
President Muhammadu Buhari expressed “overwhelming joy” over the release of the girls.
“I join the families and people of Zamfara state in welcoming and celebrating the release of these traumatized female students,” he said in a statement. “Being held in captivity is an agonizing experience not only for the victims, but also their families and all of us.”
The president called for greater vigilance to prevent bandits from carrying out such attacks — but warned that paying money for the release of victims would only result in more assaults.
Ernest Ereke, of the University of Abuja, agreed that ransoms are allowing criminal groups to buy more arms and expand their power.
And the Nigerian state increasingly looks too weak to respond, he said.
“It is a lucrative venture in a country where a lot of young people are impoverished, jobless and hungry," he said. "The state, which should confront these criminals, is enabling them by always pandering to their dictates. It should be the other way round, that is, the criminals should be scared of the state, but, in this case, it is the state that is scared of criminals.”
“If the state is not able to crush them,” he added, "it means something is wrong with the Nigerian state.”
On Saturday, 24 students, six staff and eight relatives were released after being abducted on February 17 from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger state. In December, more than 300 schoolboys from a secondary school in Kankara, in northwestern Nigeria, were taken and later released. The government has said no ransom was paid for the students’ release.
Hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted last week from a boarding school in the northwestern Zamfara state have been released, the state’s governor said Tuesday.
Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle announced that 279 girls have been freed. The government last week said 317 had been kidnapped.
Gunmen abducted the girls from the Government Girls Junior Secondary School in Jangebe town on Friday, in the latest in a series of mass kidnappings of students in the West African nation.
An Associated Press reporter saw hundreds of girls dressed in light blue hijabs and barefoot sitting at the state Government House office in Gusau.
After the meeting, the girls were escorted outside by officials and lined up to be taken away in vans. They appeared calm and ranged in ages from 10 and up.
Matawalle said they would be taken for medical examinations before being reunited with their families.
“Alhamdulillah! (God be praised!) It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jangebe from captivity. This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts. I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe,” Matawalle said in a post on Twitter early Tuesday.
At the time of the attack, one resident told AP that the gunmen also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from responding to the mass abduction at the school.
One of the girls recounted the night of their abduction to the AP.
“We were sleeping at night when suddenly we started hearing gunshots. They were shooting endlessly. We got out of our beds and people said we should run, that they are thieves,” she said. “Everybody fled and there were just two of us left in the room.”
The attackers held guns to the girls’ heads, she said.
“I was really afraid of being shot,” she said, adding that they asked for directions to the staff quarters and the principal. “We said we don’t know who she is. They said the principal is our father and they will teach us a lesson.”
Police and the military had since been carrying out joint operations to rescue the girls, whose abduction caused international outrage.
President Muhammadu Buhari expressed “overwhelming joy” over the release of the girls.
“I join the families and people of Zamfara State in welcoming and celebrating the release of these traumatized female students,” he said in a statement. “Being held in captivity is an agonizing experience not only for the victims, but also their families and all of us.”
The president called for greater vigilance to prevent bandits from carrying out such attacks.
He urged police and military to pursue the kidnappers, and warned that policies of making payments to bandits will backfire.
“Ransom payments will continue to prosper kidnapping,” he said.
The terms of the female students’ release were not made immediately clear.
Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings in recent years. On Saturday, 24 students, six staff and eight relatives were released after being abducted on February 17 from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger state. In December, more than 300 schoolboys from a secondary school in Kankara, in northwestern Nigeria, were taken and later released. The government has said no ransom was paid for the students’ release.
The most notorious kidnapping was in April 2014, when 276 girls were abducted by the jihadist rebels of Boko Haram from the secondary school in Chibok in Borno state. More than 100 of those girls are still missing. Boko Haram is opposed to western education and its fighters often target schools.
Other organized armed groups, locally called bandits, often abduct students for money. The government says large groups of armed men in Zamfara state are known to kidnap for money and to press for the release of their members held in jail.
Experts say if the kidnappings continue to go unpunished, they may continue.
Gunmen abducted 317 girls from a boarding school in northern Nigeria on Friday, police said, the latest in a series of mass kidnappings of students in the West African nation.
Police and the military have begun joint operations to rescue the girls after the attack at the Government Girls Junior Secondary School in Jangebe town, according to a police spokesman in Zamfara state, Mohammed Shehu, who confirmed the number abducted.
One parent, Nasiru Abdullahi, told The Associated Press that his daughters, aged 10 and 13, are among the missing.
“It is disappointing that even though the military have a strong presence near the school they were unable to protect the girls,” he said. “At this stage, we are only hoping on divine intervention.”
Resident Musa Mustapha said the gunmen also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from interfering while the gunmen spent several hours at the school. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
Several large groups of armed men operate in Zamfara state, described by the government as bandits, and are known to kidnap for money and to push for the release of their members from jail.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Friday the government’s primary objective is to get all the school hostages returned safe, alive and unharmed.
“We will not succumb to blackmail by bandits and criminals who target innocent school students in the expectation of huge ransom payments,” he said. “Let bandits, kidnappers and terrorists not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness, or a sign of fear or irresolution.”
He called on state governments to review their policy of making payments, in money or vehicles, to bandits.
“Such a policy has the potential to backfire with disastrous consequences,” Buhari said. He also said state and local governments must play their part by being proactive in improving security in and around schools.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the abductions and called for the girls' “immediate and unconditional release” and safe return to their families, calling attacks on schools a grave violation of human rights and the rights of children, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The U.N. chief reaffirmed U.N. support to Nigeria’s government and people “in their fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime,” Dujarric said, and urged Nigerian authorities “to spare no effort in bringing those responsible for this crime to justice.”
“We are angered and saddened by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in the country. “This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through.” He called for their immediate release.
Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings over the years, notably the mass abduction in April 2014 by jihadist group Boko Haram of 276 girls from the secondary school in Chibok in Borno state. More than a hundred of the girls are still missing.
Friday’s attack came less than two weeks after gunmen abducted 42 people, including 27 students, from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger State. The students, teachers and family members are still being held.
In December, 344 students were abducted from the Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina State. They were eventually released.
Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, noted the recent abductions and tweeted that “Strong action is required from the authorities to turn the tide & keep schools safe.”
Amnesty International also condemned the “appalling attack,” warning in a statement that “the girls abducted are in serious risk of being harmed.”
Teachers have been forced to flee to other states for protection, and many children have had to abandon their education amid frequent violent attacks in communities, Amnesty said.
Soldiers from Eritrea systematically killed “many hundreds” of people, the large majority men, in a massacre in late November in the Ethiopian city of Axum, Amnesty International says in a new report, echoing the findings of an Associated Press story last week and citing more than 40 witnesses.
Crucially, the head of the government-established Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele. says the Amnesty findings “should be taken very seriously.” The commission’s own preliminary findings “indicate the killing of an as yet unknown number of civilians by Eritrean soldiers” in Axum, its statement said.
The Amnesty report on what might be the deadliest massacre of Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict describes the soldiers gunning down civilians as they fled, lining up men and shooting them in the back, rounding up “hundreds, if not thousands” of men for beatings and refusing to allow those grieving to bury the dead.
Over a period of about 24 hours, “Eritrean soldiers deliberately shot civilians on the street and carried out systematic house-to-house searches, extrajudicially executing men and boys,” the report released early Friday says. “The massacre was carried out in retaliation for an earlier attack by a small number of local militiamen, joined by local residents armed with sticks and stones.”
The “mass execution” of Axum civilians by Eritrean troops may amount to crimes against humanity, the report says, and it calls for a United Nations-led international investigation and full access to Tigray for human rights groups, journalists and humanitarian workers. The region has been largely cut off since fighting began in early November.
Ethiopia’s federal government has denied the presence of soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, long an enemy of the Tigray region’s now-fugitive leaders, and Eritrea’s government dismissed the AP story on the Axum massacre as “outrageous lies.”
But even senior members of the Ethiopia-appointed interim government in Tigray have acknowledged the Eritrean soldiers’ presence and allegations of widespread looting and killing.
On Thursday, Ethiopia’s government acknowledged that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission was investigating “allegations relating to incidents in the city of Axum” in collaboration with unnamed international experts.
But Ethiopia’s ambassador to Belgium, Hirut Zemene, told a webinar on Thursday that the alleged massacre in November was a “very highly unlikely scenario” and “we suspect it’s a very, very crazy idea.”
No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed in the conflict between Ethiopian and allied forces and those of the Tigray regional government, which had long dominated Ethiopia’s government before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death as access, while improving, remains restricted.
The presence of Eritrean soldiers has brought some alarm. The United States has repeatedly urged Eritrea to withdraw its soldiers and cited credible reports of “grave” human rights abuses. On Wednesday it asked, “Does the Eritrean military have sufficient control over its troops to prevent them from committing human rights abuses?”
Witnesses of the massacre in Axum told Amnesty International that Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers jointly took control of the city but the Eritreans carried out the killings and then conducted house-to-house raids for men and teenage boys.
Bodies were left strewn in the streets after the events of Nov. 28 and 29, witnesses said.
“The next day, they did not allow us to pick the dead. The Eritrean soldiers said you cannot bury the dead before our dead soldiers are buried,” one woman told Amnesty International. With hospitals looted or health workers having fled, some witnesses said a number of people died from their wounds because of lack of care.
“Gathering the bodies and carrying out the funerals took days. Most of the dead appear to have been buried on 30 November, but witnesses said that people found many additional bodies in the days that followed,” the new report says.
After obtaining permission from Ethiopian soldiers to bury the dead, witnesses said they feared the killings would resume any moment, even as they piled bodies onto horse-drawn carts and took them to churches for burial, at times in mass graves.
The AP spoke with a deacon at one church, the Church of St. Mary of Zion, who said he helped count the bodies, gathered victims’ identity cards and assisted with burials. He believes some 800 people were killed that weekend around the city.
After being left exposed for a day or more, the bodies had begun to rot, further traumatizing families and those who gathered to help.
The new report says satellite imagery shows newly “disturbed soil” beside churches.