Violence in South Sudan, which broke from Sudan in 2011, has escalated to "a new brutality and intensity," according to a new UN report accusing the Sudan People's Liberation Army of carrying out a campaign of "killing, rape, abduction, looting, arson, and displacement." It notes 100,000 people have been displaced, while at least 172 women and girls have been raped and abducted. Among "the most disturbing allegations" are reports of nine separate incidents in which females were "burnt alive" in their homes after being gang-raped, reports the AFP. The report also describes how a woman was "dragged out of her hut and gang-raped in front of her 3-year-old child," per the BBC. Another was forced to hold red-hot coals in an attempt to get her to disclose the location of rebels or cattle.
A spokesman for President Salva Kiir tells the BBC that soldiers wouldn’t commit such acts against their own people, but the government will review the allegations—based on accounts from 115 victims and eyewitnesses in the state of Unity—because they are "too serious to ignore." South Sudan, where boys have also been abducted, has been embroiled in a civil war since 2013 when Kiir accused his deputy, Riek Machar, of planning a coup. A rebel army led by Machar was then formed to battle the government in a war that has claimed thousands of lives. Rebels say "progress is being made" during talks between Machar and Kiir, held in Kenya, but the battle rages on, reports the New York Times; As talks were under way on Saturday, Machar's forces moved in to capture the strategic city of Malakal. (Read more South Sudan stories.)