S. Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit cowboy hat 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
JUBA, Sudan — Political leaders in Southern Sudan on Tuesday angrily accused Sudan's Khartoum-based government of arming a rebel leader they say killed more than 200 southerners last week, a charge that could increase north-south tensions as the south prepares for independence.
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Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management James Kok Ruea labeled last week's attack by rebel leader George Athor a "massacre."
Ruea said 201 southern civilians and security forces died during the
attack in Jonglei state and that 10 died later in the hospital. He said
nearly 160 of the dead were civilians, including children, the elderly
and the internally displaced.
"They were chased into the river. I was the one who put them into a mass
grave," an emotional sounding Ruea told The Associated Press.
A southern military spokesman previously said 30 of Athor's men also were killed, bringing the overall death toll to 241.
Pagan Amum, the secretary general of the Southern Peoples' Liberation
Movement, the political arm of Southern Sudan's ruling party, blamed the
Khartoum government for arming and financing rebel leaders in the
south. He said helicopters were used to transport weapons to Athor.
"As we emerge out of instability and war there are forces that have been
subjugating Southern Sudan," Amum told a news conference. "These forces
are still there. Today armed groups are being financed, being armed,
being sent to Southern Sudan from the north. You know that George Athor
who just caused the massacre in Sangak, his guns are coming from
The accusations come one month after Southern Sudan voted to secede from
northern Sudan, a split that is scheduled to occur in July. Southern
Sudan and the Khartoum-based north ended a more than two-decade civil
war in 2005 in which more than 2 million people died.
Leaders in Southern Sudan toned down accusations against Khartoum in the
run-up to the Jan. 9-15 independence referendum. Sudanese President
Omar al-Bashir has sounded conciliatory in his acceptance of the south's
breakaway and said the north would help the south move forward.
Tuesday's accusations from Amum have the potential to shatter that period of apparent goodwill.
The accused rebel leader, Athor, defected from his position in the
southern army earlier this year to run for governor in Jonglei, the
largest and most volatile of the south's 10 states. After losing the
April vote, Athor launched a revolt against the southern government
along with an unknown number of his troops.
In September, Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir offered amnesty to
Athor and several other men who had launched armed uprisings. On Jan. 5,
four days before the referendum, Athor signed a cease-fire with the
army in what then appeared to end one of the largest security threats to
But last week his forces attacked the towns of Fangak and Dor in Jonglei
state, breaking the cease-fire. Athor's troops captured Fangak on
Wednesday, and the fighting continued through Thursday until the
southern military retook it, southern military spokesman Col. Philip
Aguer said last week.