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Jonglei: Hundreds killed and many cattle raided in Pibor - official

June 24, 2011 (BOR) - Hundreds of people have been killed and a large number of cattle stolen in Pibor county in South Sudan’s largest state Jonglei following clashes between the Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups the county’s commissioner says.

Residents of Duk Padiet stand near the airstrip two days after the village was attacked on 22 September, 2009 by the neighboring Lou Nuer tribe. (Photo UN)The vast and swampy territory of Jonglei is shared by the several ethnic groups mainly Bor Dinka, the Lou Nuer, and Murle who clashed during the past over cattle, water and pasturage. The long years of war in the South also affected these tribal groups and they supported different parties.

In March 2009, over 453 people were killed and 120 women abducted during attacks carried out by thousands of armed people of the Lou Nuer who attacked 17 settlement in Pibor. In retaliation, the Murle assaulted Nuer villages in Akobo county, killing more than 250 people, and abducting more than 30 children.

The UN agencies estimate that the attacks and counter-attacks of 2009 forced some 26,000 people to flee their homes in Pibor and Akobo counties.

Pibor’s commissioner Akot Mazee said that thousands of armed young men from Akobo, Ayod, Duk, Nyirol, Twic East and Uror counties attacked his county on 15 June destroying Gumuruk, Lekuangule and Pibor Payams or districts.

Mazee told Sudan Tribune that massive numbers of Murles have been killed. He estimated that since the fighting began on 15 June around 900 people have died.

Mazee further said the well armed attackers had burned houses, raided cattle and abducted some children in the areas. He pointed out that machine guns, hand-grenades, RPG 7 rockets and AK 47 rifles were used.

Jonglei State’s deputy governor, Maar Nyuot confirmed and condemned the attacks but declined to give a death toll.

The minister of law enforcement in the Jonglei, Duop Lam also confirmed the assaults but was not sure of how many people had been killed or the number of cattle raided.

Lam said Jonglei has called for the intervention of huge forces from the South Sudan army to put to an end the fighting.

“As the state, we having been for the intervention of huge forces. Our police can[not] control either Lou [Nuer] or [the] Murle”, said Lam.

In 2009 attacks, UN officials in South Sudan spoke about the use of sophisticated firearms in the inter-tribes clashes. A UNMIS force had been deployed but suggested that a sustainable solution involves disarming the local population and a proactive deployment of state security forces in areas of potential conflict.

Local officials explain that the lack of infrastructures complicates the quick intervention of the army.

However the Nyirol County commissioner Isaac Kuach, denied that the attack was launched by the Lou Nuer on Murle saying it might have been a criminal gang that attacked Pibor.

Kuach admitted that his people sometimes retaliate and take "revenge" after being attacked by Murle, but said he has no knowledge that the current attack was organised by people from his county.

"I don’t have any information about the people of Nyirol leaving and attacking the Murle. If it was an organised attack, I should have known it", he said.

"If there are, it may be amalgamation of thieves who might have organised themselves and attack Murle whether because of revenge or to get wealth, I don’t know", Kuach continued.

(ST)