More than 200 have been killed and several others are missing in fresh fighting between two rival ethnic groups in the troubled Jonglei state of South Sudan officials said Sunday, raising stakes ahead of a disarmament exercise set for mid this month.
The fighting erupted Friday morning in cattle camps in Akobo County when armed men from Pibor in the same state crossed in from the Ethiopia borders and attacked the area, Jonglei state Local Government minister Duop Lam said.
“This was big fighting and more than 500 are killed or missing. I heard that there are more than 200 patients. If you have fighting with 200 patients like this, people who died will be more,” Mr Duop said.
“They mobilised themselves in not less than 3,000. They are moving back to the Murle land. The army was in Akobo and this people went through the Ethiopian border,” the minister added, referring to the attackers who he said came from Pibor.
The Murle of Pibor and the Lou-Nuer of Akobo hold longstanding hostilities over cattle, grazing lands and water points.
The army spokesman, Col Philip Aguer Panyang said “many have been killed and many cattle were taken.”
“I am told that the attack was big. It was a big attack by the armed Murle,” said Col Aguer on Sunday.
Earlier, the army said it had deployed about 10,000 soldiers in all the 11 counties of the state to carry out disarmament and provide protection to the already disarmed communities.
Col Aguer said it was not clear how the SPLA in Akobo failed to buffer the attack.
The prevalence of the clash and the magnitude of the damage caused have been exacerbated by the presence of illicit arms in the hands of the civilians.
Friday’s deadly clash comes at the heels of a voluntary disarmament exercise mid this month in which President Salva Kiir said he would not tolerate resistance from the armed tribal youths.
More than 3,000 people are reported dead in such waves of violence in Jonglei state since January.
Ethnic hostilities have threatened to undermine stability of the Africa’s newest state since the euphoric independence last July.