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South Sudan's Unity state to bar UN official over report on gov't troops attacking civilians

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JUBA, South Sudan — A U.N. diplomat based in South Sudan's northern Unity state will be expelled from the state in a retaliatory move following the publication of a human rights report last month that accused government forces of committing widespread attacks on civilians there, a South Sudanese official said Sunday.

The decision to expel Mary Cummins was made in a state Cabinet meeting, deputy state governor Mabek Lang told The Associated Press. Cummins is head of the U.N. mission in Unity state. UNMISS' human rights division released a report on June 30 accusing government forces of committing human rights abuses, including killing women and children, gang rape and burning people.

South Sudan's presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said the national government hasn't received a request from Unity state to expel Cummings from the country.

UNMISS acting spokesman Joe Contreras said that the mission is aware of reports that the mission's top official in Unity state shouldn't return to her duty station.

In May, South Sudan expelled U.N. humanitarian coordinator Toby Lanzer. U.N. Secretary-General , through a spokesman, condemned the government of South Sudan for its decision to expel Lanzer, saying he has been instrumental in addressing the increasing humanitarian needs in the country.

South Sudan, which on Thursday marked four years of independence, has been plagued by violence since December 2013 as government troops battle rebels led by a former deputy president.

South Sudan became the world's newest nation in 2011 following a vote to secede from northern neighbor Sudan. But the young country fell into war after just 18 months as a result of a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, who is now the leader of rebel forces controlling some parts of South Sudan.

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