South Sudan: Jonglei village in deadly 'cattle attack'

  • 7 December 2011
  • From the section Africa
A South Sudanese boys herds cattle in Jonglei state (Archive shot)
Image caption Owning cows is a vital element of wealth for many communities in South Sudan

At least 41 people have died in an attack by armed men on a village in South Sudan's Jonglei state, notorious for ethnic fighting and cattle raids.

Jonglei State Governor Kuol Manyang told the BBC that many of the dead were women and children who were burnt alive when they tried to hide in their huts.

Those who escaped blamed members of the Murle ethnic group and said they took cattle away with them.

Insecurity is one of the big problems facing newly independent South Sudan.

Deadly cycle

Mr Manyang said two columns of armed men had approached the village of Jalle on Monday afternoon and started shooting.

One baby was killed by a machete during the attack, he said.

The village's remote location, about 65km (40 miles) from the state capital, Bor, means news of the attack came out slowly.

The governor speculated that the attackers might have walked for four days from their homeland to carry out the raid.

He also said some of the survivors were chasing after the attackers, and there would almost certainly be more fighting.

Owning cows is a vital element of wealth for many communities in South Sudan.

Cattle rustling has become a way of life for some.

It is very difficult to stop incidents like this in South Sudan. The roads are often very bad, making it hard for security forces to move about.

Decades of civil war mean many civilians are armed and the need for revenge following cattle raids often fuels a deadly cycle of violence.

In August more than 600 people were killed in a single day in Jonglei state in clashes between members of the Murle group and the majority Lou Nuer.

The authorities, the UN peacekeeping mission and religious groups are trying to convince all sides not to resort to violence.

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