Ethnic clashes bring further bloodshed to restive south

Twenty-five people have been killed and several more wounded in the latest tribal clashes to rock the restive, oil-rich Upper Nile region of south Sudan, a military spokesman from Sudan's autonomous south has said.


AFP - Twenty-five people have been killed and several more wounded in clashes in the tense oil-rich Upper Nile region of south Sudan, a military spokesman said on Saturday.

Heavily armed fighters attacked an ethnic Dinka settlement in Bony-Thiang, north of the state capital Malakal, early on Friday, Major General Kuol Diem Kuol, of the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), said.

"They killed 20, including the paramount chief, his two wives and three children, and wounded many more," Kuol said. "They have burnt down the village and destroyed all the huts, and they have stolen very many cattle."

Angry Dinka groups then launched a retaliatory raid on the nearby Shilluk village of Bon, killing five people including a woman and two children, Kuol said.

Nine people seriously wounded in the initial raid have been taken to the regional hospital in Malakal, but Kuol said he feared there were more injured.

"We expect there are many more who were wounded but have run away in fear," he said, adding that SPLM units were now in control of the area.

Kuol said the gunmen were from the Shilluk ethnic group and belonged to a militia backed by a splinter group from the south’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), known as SPLM Democratic Change (SPLM-DC).

The force was led by a former SPLA colonel who had worked for a wildlife unit before deserting, Kuol said.

"The wounded said the militia were led by an officer who has defected to the SPLM-DC," Kuol said. "They saw these men with their own eyes."

SPLM-DC leader Lam Akol rejected the accusation as a "fabrication."

"We don't have a militia," Akol said. "This is defamation, and we might consider legal measures."

Many in the south distrust Akol, who changed sides during Sudan’s 22-year civil war between the southern rebels and the government in Khartoum.

North-south tensions remain high, with Sudan still divided by the religious, ethnic and ideological differences which sparked the conflict.

Clashes between rival ethnic groups in south Sudan erupt frequently -- often sparked by cattle rustling and disputes over natural resources, while others are retaliation for previous attacks.

However, a string of recent raids has shocked many, with an apparent sharp increase in attacks on women and children, as well as the targeting of homesteads.

More than 2,000 people have died and 250,000 been displaced in inter-tribal violence across southern Sudan since January, according to the United Nations, which says the rate of violent deaths now surpasses that in the war-torn western region of Darfur.

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 a 2011 referendum on self-determination.


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