JUBA - Fighting between South Sudan's army and a militia led by a self-proclaimed prophet killed 24 people in an eastern region where France's Total and other foreign oil groups are hoping to explore large concessions, the military said.
The army said it attacked the fighters led by Dak Kueth on Monday as part of a campaign to quell ethnic militias in the remote Jonglei state.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan last year but its government has struggled to assert control over vast territories still swamped with weapons after decades of fighting.
In Jonglei, a cycle of revenge killings between the Murle and Lou Nuer tribes, often provoked by cattle raids, and a heavy-handed government campaign to disarm locals have hit hopes that independence would bring peace.
"We realized that Dak Kueth was mobilizing Lou Nuer youth to go and attack the Murle in Akobo. We decided to preempt this action," Lieutenant General Kuol Deim Kuol told Reuters.
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