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Published: Sunday December 22, 2013 MYT 1:20:01 AM
Updated: Sunday December 22, 2013 MYT 1:20:56 AM

African Union calls for Christmas truce in South Sudan

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - The African Union called on Saturday for an immediate ceasefire in South Sudan, where U.N. staff say hundreds of people have been killed in nearly a week of fighting.

In a statement, it described the killing of U.N. peacekeepers and civilians at a U.N. camp as a war crime.

Fighting that began on Sunday in the capital Juba has swiftly spread to other parts of the country, fuelled by ethnic divisions between the main Nuer and Dinka tribal groups.

The African Union said in a statement that its chairwoman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma "calls for an immediate humanitarian truce for the Christmas season, as a sign of a commitment by all concerned to the well-being of the people of South Sudan".

The United Nations has said that about 2,000 ethnic Luo Nuer youths overran a U.N. base in Akobo on Thursday, killing two Indian peacekeepers and at least 11 Dinka civilians who had sought refuge at the base.

The African Union said Dlamini-Zuma was "extremely saddened by the killing of innocent civilians and United Nations peacekeepers in Bor, in the Jonglei State of South Sudan. She condemns these killings as a war crime".

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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