Former Lower Merion resident Christopher Allen, 26, a freelance journalist covering the civil war in South Sudan, was killed Saturday during a battle between rebels and government troops.

Allen, who worked with various news outlets, was killed in heavy fighting in the town of Kaya near the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Government officials said at least 16 rebels were also killed in the fighting. They said Allen's body was taken to the military hospital in South Sudan's capital, Juba.

A 2013 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Allen had been embedded with Sudan's rebel forces for the past week.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan since the conflict broke out in 2014, and more than a million have fled across the border into Uganda because of the fighting in the border area.

Before working in South Sudan, Allen covered the war in Ukraine. He was one of the first journalists on the scene after Russia-backed rebels there were blamed for shooting down a Malaysian airliner, killing all 298 people aboard, said Pat Hughes, a friend of the family's and a former Inquirer copy editor.

"He had a passion for telling the stories of people touched by war," she said. "He went to South Sudan for the same reason all good journalists go to trouble spots: to get the story and to bring that story to the world's attention."

Hughes said that among the news outlets that ran Allen's articles were the Independent and the Telegraph, both of London, and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news agency. One of his first freelance articles was for the November/December 2014 issue of the University of Pennsylvania alumni magazine, the Pennsylvania Gazette, on his experiences being embedded with the Donbas Battalion in Ukraine.

In that article, he wrote: "I left academia because I believed that out here in a place where humanity is at its most exposed and raw, I might better understand something fundamental about the way the world works and the way history is made—about who people really are."

Allen had attended Merion Elementary School, Bala Cynwyd Middle School, and Germantown Friends School for high school. After earning his degree at Penn, he completed a master's degree in European history through a program that included studies at Europe's top universities, Hughes said.

The nonprofit Human Rights Watch says much of South Sudan's infrastructure has been destroyed in the war. It says all sides in the conflict are responsible for human-rights abuses.

This article includes information from wire services.