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Three passenger buses attacked on Juba-Nimule highway

Monday, 10th October 2016 October 10, 2016 (JUBA) - Several passengers traveling from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, across the border to Juba in South Sudan, are feared dead when three passengers¡¯ buses came under attack on the road on Monday by unknown gunmen.

The buses, according to eyewitnesses' accounts, were bombed at Jebel-Lein, about 40 kms from Juba on the road to Nimule, a South Sudanese border town to neighboring Uganda. One bus, belonging to Eco Bus company is burnt and two buses belonging to Friendship and Gateway Companies, respectively, were stopped at gunpoint by armed men, masked with black clothes. The passengers were abducted, one survivor told Sudan Tribune on Monday.

"When I passed the buses at Jebel-Lein, Eco Bus was burning. One can see human remains in the bus and blood all over the place. Two other passengers were empty," said Jobn, a traveler from Nimule who preferred to be identified by only first name.

John said he also helped in lifting survivors on to his vehicle and were carried to Juba teaching hospital. One survivor said she escaped from the gunmen who took several others hostage.

"The armed men fired at the first bus and it blocked the road. People started to jump down from the other buses but we were all held at gun point," said Mary, a woman in her 30s. Mary said she managed to escape and returned to the main road where she and two others met John.

John said his car was escorted by soldiers who have responded to the attack. The buses were traveling to Uganda and most of the passengers are South Sudanese and Ugandans. It is not clear how many people were onboard.

Juba-Nimule highway connects to neighboring Uganda, an important route which supplies the South Sudanese capital, Juba. But attacks on passenger buses and other commercial trucks have increased since fighting erupted in July between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and soldiers loyal to Riek Machar, the leader of the armed SPLM In Opposition (SPLM-IO) and former First Vice President in the Transitional Government of National Unity, who was ousted in a controversial process following the violence.

Machar fled Juba and remains in Khartoum, Sudan. He is replaced by his former chief peace negotiator, Taban Deng Gai, in a move criticized by his supporters as illegal. Gai, who has pledged to end the war, seems to lack military support among the SPLM-IO commanders.

Highway attacks, including killing of over 20 civilians on Juba-Yei road on Sunday have surged and appeared to be targeting the Dinka ethnic group, the tribe of President Kiir. Survivors of the attack on Yei road said they were singled out after being identified as Dinka and summarily executed, claims Sudan Tribune could not verify.

Two weeks ago, a car carrying Dinka Bor cattle keepers was attacked near Juba on Kajo-Keji road, killing over 10 people. No arrest has been made.