It happened on Thursday between the Murle and Lou Nuer tribes in Jonglei, state, said the UN and South Sudan government officials. It started when young Murle men attacked Lou Nuer villages in and around the town of Pieri. Much of the town, in one of the newly independent country’s most dangerous states, burnt down, the BBC reported.
Apparently seeking revenge for a recent attack by the Lou Nuer, the Murle also stole about 38,000 cows, said the state's minister for law enforcement, Gabriel Duot Lam. "It was a devastating attack launched by criminals,” said Moses Gatkuoth, a state official. Women and children were the major victims of the clashes, Mr Gatkuoth told the Sudan Tribune. As well as burning about 3,431 houses, “the attackers have also partially burnt the hospital,” Mr Gatkuoth added. And further investigations could see the number of casualties rise, Kuol Manyang Juuk, the governor of Jonglei, told the AFP news service. "They have gone away with cattle. Children were abducted, and women," he said.
Ethnic groups in South Sudan have fought for centuries over cattle - a vital part of the local economy. But the numbers of casualties has risen after decades of civil war left the territory awash with small arms. The fighting is a bad sign for stability in South Sudan, the world's youngest country, which gained independence on July 9.
South Sudan's government has accused the north of arming rival tribes and provoking violence to undermine the region and keep control of its oil. Khartoum has denied the allegation.
Government official, Charles Majok Bol, said on Friday that it was sad to hear of the attacks so soon after South Sudan’s independence. “Innocent children who are our future are being killed. This is a terrible tragedy, our government must do something remedy this situation now than later”, said Bol. He said that inter-tribal clashes in Jonglei have been downplayed and not taken seriously by the state and Juba-based government. “So far, I am not aware of any disarmament that I know to have been carried out successfully. I have also not heard of anyone brought to book due to raids carried out by Lou Nuer against Murle, or those carried out by Murle against Lou Nuer”, he explained.
Between January and the end of June, 2,368 people have been killed in 330 violent incidents across South Sudan, according to UN figures out in July.