- South Sudan - Sudan - unrest
AFP - Clashes between rival ethnic groups in south Sudan have killed more than 160 people, a UN official said on Monday.
"We have reports of more than 160 dead, and many are believed to be women and children," the senior official said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The attacks took place on Sunday in the Akabo region of the Jonglei state, the official in Juba said.
Initial reports indicated that armed men from the Murele ethnic group attacked people already displaced by fighting earlier this year in the same region.
In April, 250 people were killed when Murele fighters attacked Lou Nuer villagers. As many as 750 people were killed in clashes a month before in Pibor county further south.
In all, more than a thousand people have died and many thousands more have been displaced by fighting in the south in recent months, with UN officials warning that the recent rate of violent deaths now surpasses those in Sudan's war-torn western region of Darfur.
Jonglei state was one of the areas hardest hit in Sudan's two-decade-long north-south civil war, which ended in 2005 with a power-sharing deal between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south.
The state remains awash with small arms and there are frequent clashes between rival groups.
Heavy-handed but ineffective disarmament campaigns have left regions at risk of attack from their still armed neighbours.
Under the deal that ended Africa's longest civil war, the south has a six-year transitional period of regional autonomy and takes part in a unity government until the 2011 referendum on self-determination.
Authorities struggle to maintain order in the sprawling state, which is the size of Austria and Switzerland combined.
Forty soldiers were killed in June when an ethnic group attacked barges carrying food aid on the Sobat river.
The boats carrying grain and other supplies for the UN's World Food Programme were attacked some 10 to 20 miles (15 to 30 kilometres) outside the town of Nassir in Upper Nile state.
The attacks followed clashes in May between factions of the Lou Nuer and Jikany ethnic groups, in which at least 66 people were killed according to local officials.
The fighting has raised fears of potential future instability with national elections due in February 2010.