South Sudan has stated that it will conduct an investigation regarding the murder of five civilians, four of them Christian, outside a church Christmas day, according to a local media report.
The shooting occurred in the Khorfulus district in Jonglei state during the end of a midnight mass. The incident left an additional 15 people wounded, while the property was looted by soldiers.
A soldier reportedly opened fire on the crowd near the church after a member of the army was found dead, according to an army official.
This army that belongs to South Sudan is mostly comprised of rebels from the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army who fought against Khartoum during the civil war.
South Sudan became the world’s newest country in July. The United Nations had to send 7,000 troops and 900 police to help ensure peace in the formerly war-ravaged nation as it transitioned into statehood.
Southern Sudan has been engaged in a civil war with the North since it officially became a nation in the mid-1980s. The split was initially caused by differences in religion with the North being mostly comprised of Muslims and the South being made up of Christians and Animists. Over recent years South Sudan has increasingly sought independence to escape from being ruled by Islam’s strict Shariah law.
South Sudan is made up of 8 million people and was also inducted into the United Nations the same month it became independent. It is the 193rd member of the U.N.
Its sovereignty came after a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war between the Arab-dominated north and Christians and animists in the South. It also called for a referendum in which South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for succession.