April 18, 2014 | Armed attack on UN base in South Sudan

On this day in 2014, a mob of civilians posing as protesters stormed a UN compound in South Sudan and shot dead 48 people, some with RPGs.

Terrorists see themselves as heroic: where is the heroism in attacking a UN base housing civilians?

BOR, SOUTH SUDAN — Ya gotta feel for the eastern African nation of Sudan. The country has been a hellhole for decades. Run by a dictator, Omar al Bashir, from 1989 to 2019, the country witnessed violence on an epic scale. The Islamic north clashed regularly with the Christian/animist south. The Darfur region in the west was the scene of a civil war beginning in 2003 that resulted in 3-400,000 deaths. Many labeled it a genocide.

Since 2011 the lower half of the historical territory became its own nation, South Sudan. The world thought that perhaps peace was at hand – finally. How wrong that would turn out to be.


Two strongmen in the south, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, have vacillated between fighting and truces ever since. The new nation has few resources and is not in good shape. As of 2019, South Sudan ranks lowest in the latest UN World Happiness Report, second lowest on the Global Peace Index, and has the third-highest score on the American Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index.

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The death, destruction and tragedy visited upon this country is beyond description. So much violence has been perpetrated and, not surprisingly, the majority of victims are civilians. Some attacks, however, are even more disgusting than usual.

On this day in 2014 a mob of armed civilians pretending to be peaceful protesters delivering a petition to the United Nations in South Sudan forced their way into a UN base sheltering some 5,000 civilians and opened fire, killing 48 and wounding more than 60. Some of the assailants were armed with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Any attack on U.N. peacekeepers is “unacceptable and constitutes a war crime.

While it is unclear who the attackers were, I have a hard time accepting that average civilians have access to RPGs. Perhaps in a war zone these weapons are easier to get, but this still strikes me as having had a sponsor, or at least an arms supplier.

This attack illustrates something very important about terrorism. At times it proves next to impossible to determine who is behind a particular act of extremist violence: not all acts are claimed (and sometimes claims are false). Still, I do not know what else to call this heinous deed: it is not really an act of war as neither side were an actual army.

I’d like to understand better how any band of nasty people portray the slaughter of civilians seeking shelter from the UN as a heroic deed that furthers a goal. I fear, however, that any explanation will go wanting.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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