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Jikany Nuer White Army fighters walk in a rebel-controlled territory in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, on Feb. 13, 2014.
Goran Tomasevic—Reuters

The U.N. on Thursday accused both the government and the rebels in South Sudan of human-rights abuses and suggested they committed crimes against humanity.

In a 62-page report based largely on more than 900 interviews with eyewitnesses and victims, the U.N. found both sides committed rape, mass killings and torture, often targeting civilians along ethnic lines.

“In light of the widespread and systematic nature of many of the attacks, and information suggesting coordination and planning, there are also reasonable grounds to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder, rape and other acts of sexual violence, enforced disappearance, and imprisonment have occurred,” the report found.

Fighting broke out in December in the world’s newest nation between government troops under President Salva Kiir and rebel fighters backing Kiir’s former deputy, Riek Machar. The conflict has exasperated underlying ethnic tensions between Kiir’s Dinka tribe and Machar’s Nuer, and the U.N. said in the report that thousands of civilians have likely been killed.

Kiir and Machar are expected to meet Friday in Ethiopia to try to negotiate an end to nearly five months of fighting.

On Tuesday, the Obama Administration imposed economic sanctions targeting a top official from each side in an effort to pressure both sides to the negotiating table.

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Write to Noah Rayman at

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