Al Jazeera exclusive: South Sudan rebel threatened UN just before helicopter shooting

PHOTO CAPTION: Al Jazeera’s Anna Cavell

Al Jazeera has aired exclusive audio of South Sudan Liberation Army rebel commander Peter Gadet threatening to shoot incoming UN aircraft, just nine days before a UN helicopter was shot down on 26 August 2014 over Bentiu in Unity State, South Sudan. Three Russian crew were killed in the crash.

“We tell you that tomorrow we fight,” Gadet warns a UN representative. “We fire at all airplanes incoming.”

When the UN representative says the planes are for the United Stations Mission in Sudan (UNMISS), Gadet interrupts. “No, no, no, no. Why you, why you use your airplanes for SPLA to come together today, to cargo with SPLA?”

The UN denies his accusation that they are supporting his enemy, the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

Al Jazeera’s Anna Cavell says, “The UN base near to the crash site is home to tens of thousands of people who've taken refuge there from the fighting nearby. UN helicopters fly in several times a day, mainly bringing cargo in support of its humanitarian and peace-keeping operations.”

Joe Contreras, UNMISS spokesperson, says, “We would hope that the opposition leadership – if indeed it is shown that their forces on the ground were responsible for this unprovoked attack – would hold their own elements responsible and mete out a suitable punishment."

In April hundreds of people were killed in Bentiu, including many who were sheltering in a mosque. “Peter Gadet, the rebel leader heard threatening the UN in the recording, is widely believed to have been responsible,” says Cavell. “He has been sanctioned by the US and EU as a result but the sanctions seem to have had little impact on his tactics in the months since.”

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