Sudan and rebels from South Kordofan are to meet Thursday for their first peace talks in almost a year, aiming to end a war that has affected more than one million people.
The Ethiopia negotiations come two weeks after Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir appealed for a political and economic "renaissance," with peace as the top priority, in his war-ravaged and poverty-stricken nation.
Diplomats say the Addis Ababa talks signal recognition within Bashir's 25-year-old regime that its current course is unsustainable.
A top UN rights envoy in South Sudan said child soldiers are fighting in the more than month-long conflict, with mass killings reported to have taken place.
"The reports that we have come across involve mass killings, extrajudicial killings, widespread destruction and looting, and child soldier recruitment," the UN's Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic told reporters.
“In Jonglei, Riek Machar has been mobilizing the so-called White Army, the Lou Nuer youth, and has been moving with them toward Bor with the intention of launching a second attack on Bor,” South Sudan military spokesman Philip Aguer told Voice of America on Saturday.
Thousands of South Sudanese have been killed in more than a week of violence, with reports of bodies piled in mass graves, the UN said as it moved to nearly double its peacekeepers there.
Large areas of South Sudan remain out of the government's control amid fears the young nation was sliding toward civil war, though Juba said its forces had recaptured the strategically important town of Bor from rebels on Tuesday.
JUBA, South Sudan — Three US aircraft came under fire from unidentified forces on Saturday while trying to evacuate Americans from a spiraling conflict in South Sudan. The US military said four of its members were wounded in the attacks.
Unidentified shooters fired at an aircraft on a mission to evacuate American citizens from restive South Sudan on Saturday, injuring four US service members, according to the US military.
"After receiving fire from the ground while approaching the site, the aircraft diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission," the military's Africa Command said in a statement, according to Reuters.
New York-based Human Rights Watch noted Thursday that government soldiers were targeting civilians belonging to Machar’s Nuer ethnic group in the clashes in Juba, while rebel soldiers in Bor targeted civilians who are Dinka, like South Sudan President Salva Kiir.