JUBA, South Sudan – The killing of an American journalist in South Sudan violates international humanitarian law and should be investigated, according to an international human rights group.
South Sudan's leaders should "condemn this killing, investigate how it happened and hold those responsible to account," Jehanne Henry, senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press.
On Saturday morning, 28-year-old freelance journalist, Christopher Allen, was killed when fighting erupted between opposition and government forces along the border between South Sudan and Uganda.
The rebel forces launched a coordinated attack on several towns along the Ugandan border, said the opposition's deputy spokesman, Col. Lam Paul Gabriel. Allen and two other journalists were embedded with the rebels on a two-week mission and they had come from Kampala, Gabriel told The Associated Press.
Gabriel alleged that Allen "was targeted and killed by the government forces for photographing the fight." He sent his condolences to Allen's family and friends.
Army spokesman, Col. Domic Chol Santo, dismissed the opposition account as "rubbish," saying the government forces acted in self-defense and Allen was killed in the crossfire near the town of Kaya, 2 kilometers (1 mile) from Bazi.
Allen, a freelance journalist, had been based on and off in Kiev, Ukraine, for several years, said a member of the Ukrainian National Guard and a friend of Allen's during his time in Ukraine.
"He actually struck me as an intelligent fellow, open-minded," said the Ukrainian soldier who insisted on anonymity for security reasons.
He said Allen had embedded with a paramilitary group before embedding with his unit for three weeks in March, 2015, and that Allen told him he was interested in joining the military in the future.
South Sudan is one of the harshest climates in the world for journalists, according to press freedom groups. Recently the government has cracked down on the press, blocking several South Sudan news websites.
In the past few months, 15 South Sudanese journalists have been detained, beaten or denied access to information, according to the Union of Journalists in South Sudan and more than 20 foreign journalists have been denied entry or kicked out of the country.