UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.N. panel of experts said that a major Chinese state-owned arms supplier sold more than $20 million of weapons to South Sudan's government last year, several months into the country's deadly internal conflict.
The experts' first-ever report, made public Tuesday, says China North Industries Corp., or Norinco, sold South Sudan's government 100 anti-tank guided missile launchers, 1,200 missiles, about 2,400 grenade launchers, nearly 10,000 automatic rifles and 24 million rounds of various types of ammunition.
The report also says South Sudan's military has somehow obtained four attack helicopters since the start of the conflict. It had none before then.
South Sudan has been at war since December 2013, when a split within the security forces escalated into a violent rebellion led by Riek Machar. Kiir's ethnic Dinka people are pitted against Machar's Nuer, and the ethnic nature of the violence has alarmed the international community.
The U.N. Security Council is now considering a U.S.-drafted resolution that would impose an arms embargo on South Sudan if its government doesn't sign a peace deal within days.
President Salva Kiir refused to sign last week, but a spokesman on Tuesday said Kiir is expected to sign Wednesday at a summit with regional leaders. The current Security Council president, Nigerian Ambassador Joy Ogwu, told reporters that the council is ready to "act immediately" if he doesn't.
The panel of experts report also echoes previous U.N. reports of young girls being raped and burned alive in their homes.
It says both sides in the conflict between government forces and rebels have targeted civilians, saying that since April, "the intensity and brutality of the violence aimed at civilians are hitherto unseen, in what has already been, without a doubt, an exceedingly violent conflict."
Thousands of people have been killed. More than 1.6 million people have been displaced. And oil-rich South Sudan's public debt has climbed from zero at its independence in 2011 to $4.2 billion as of June, the report says.
The panel of experts report says it has started to investigate "the financing channels used by the government and the opposition to prosecute the war and into those individuals and entities who gain financially from the continuation of the conflict."
In July, after more than a year of warnings, the Security Council imposed its first sanctions on six generals for fueling the fighting.