Africa

South Sudan: Cattle raid in Warap state 'kills 74'

File photo of cattle farmer in South Sudan
Image caption Cattle play a vital role in the lives of many South Sudanese communities

At least 74 people have been killed by armed gunmen in a cattle raid in South Sudan, officials say.

Among the dead were 45 women and children, Warap state governor Nyangdeng Malek told the BBC.

South Sudan's interior minister has blamed a militia group from Unity State, which he says is armed by the Sudanese government in Khartoum.

Tensions remain high since South Sudan seceded peacefully from Sudan in July after decades of war.

Cattle play a vital role in the lives of many South Sudanese communities. Hundreds of people have been killed in a series of tit-for-tat cattle raids in Jonglei state in recent weeks.

Ms Malek told the BBC that she had seen the bodies of 74 people killed in Saturday's cattle raid. They had travelled to two camps to find water, which is scarce at this time of year, she said.

Ms Malek said another 72 people were being treated in hospital and nine people were still missing.

She said the attackers had come from neighbouring Unity state and apparently stole thousands of head of cattle. She said she was not sure if they were armed civilians or members of a militia group.

An official in Warap state told the Paris-based Sudan Tribune newspaper that villages belonging to the Luac Jang ethnic group in Tong East county had come under attack early on Saturday.

Interior Minister Alison Manani Magaya also blamed militia fighters from Unity state but could not name the specific group.

"This militia group was armed by the government of Khartoum," he said.

Sudan has denied similar accusations in the past.

Mr Ayii said that the area which was attacked had been disarmed, leaving it vulnerable to attack by rival groups.

The BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum says that although South Sudan accuses Sudan of supporting rebels in Unity state, civilians in many places in South Sudan are also armed, and this could have been a straightforward cattle raid.

South Sudan became independent on 9 July 2011 following decades of civil war with the north.

One legacy of the conflict is that the region is still flooded with weapons, another is the lack of roads, making it difficult for the security forces to intervene.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan to reach agreement on how to divide up their oil wealth, a key source of tension between the two.

"The situation in Sudan and South Sudan has reached a critical point. It has become a major threat to peace and security across the region," Mr Ban said in a speech to an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

South Sudan has stopped pumping oil after Sudan confiscated shipments, saying it had not been paid for transit fees.

Sudan lost most of its oil when the south became independent but the pipelines run through Sudan to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.