Cattle war: Fierce ethnic clashes kill more than 200 in South Sudan
JUBA - Fierce ethnic clashes over cattle rustling killed more than 200 people in South Sudan at the weekend, and hundreds more were abducted in the troubled fledgling nation, a state governor said Monday.
The latest attacks appear to be reprisals for a wave of ethnic violence and cattle raids in the same area in January when an 8,000-strong militia razed villages and massacred people in their wake.
"The people killed are around 223. 150 are injured," Jonglei State Governor Kuol Manyang said. "There are about 300 women and children who are thought to have been abducted."
Manyang said around 100,000 cows were stolen on Friday and Saturday when cattle raiders from the Murle community in Jonglei state attacked the ethnic Lou Nuer living in neighbouring Upper Nile state.
Manyang said the attacks in and around Romyieri, in Nasir territory, started at dawn on Friday.
There has been no independent confirmation of the death toll in a region where such numbers often vary dramatically. The area is very remote with few roads and no mobile network.
The International Medical Corps, an aid agency in Akobo, a county in Jonglei, said it had treated 63 people evacuated after a five-hour boat journey.
"The caseload includes 60 patients with gunshot wounds, as well as fractures and other minor wounds. One person died in transit to the hospital," the IMC said in a statement Monday.
It said a medical team had seen "the bodies of people killed in the fighting."
The UN has yet to release a death toll for the January attacks by Lou Nuer youths on Murle villages, and a speedily produced figure from the commissioner of Pibor county of 3,000 dead remains unverified.
A state-wide disarmament campaign to collect some 20,000 guns in Jonglei started on Monday, but Manyang said a promised buffer zone between the warring communities had "not been established" as troops still needed to set up camps and drill wells.
The last wave of ethnic violence in Jonglei in December and January affected an estimated 120,000 people, according to Lise Grande, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for the fledgling nation.
Impoverished Jonglei has seen a dramatic escalation of bloody attacks between rival ethnic groups over cattle raids and abductions of people.
UN teams are also entering areas where reprisal attacks have since taken place on Lou Nuer and Dinka tribes, with the government estimating that some 150 people have been killed in a series of revenge raids.
Concerns are growing for the stability of grossly underdeveloped South Sudan, which declared independence last July after decades of war with the now rump state of Sudan.