Heavy fighting flares in North Darfur, 80 killed

A truck carrying displaced Darfurians in Sudan (photo credit: AP)
A truck carrying displaced Darfurians in Sudan
(photo credit: AP)
Gunmen attacked a village in southern Sudan and killed some 80 people and wounded 46, said a southern government official Monday, adding that he believed the militia was organized by the central government.

Maj. Gen. Kuol Diem Kuol, spokesman of the southern Sudanese military forces, said Lou Nuer tribesman attacked the village of Duk-Padiet in Jonglei state on Sunday killing around 80 people, including 61 civilians.

"The gunmen who are from the Lou-Nuer tribe they formed a militia," he told The Associated Press, adding that it was the same group that carried out attacks nearby that also killed dozens two weeks earlier. He believed they are being armed and organized by the north's ruling National Congress party.

"It is not normal, it is something politicized and the (National Congress Party wants to destabilize southern Sudan, particularly with the approach of the elections," added Kuol, who represents the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, which now controls the south.

He said 22 of the attackers were also killed in the fighting.

The UN has warned about a rising wave of tribal violence in South Sudan that in the past months has killed more than 2,000 people, including many women and children, and displaced another 250,000.

Kuol, however, maintains the attacks are part of campaign by the ruling party, which fought a bloody two-decade civil war with the southerners, to destabilize the south.

In late August, Lou-Nuer tribesmen killed 46 people from the rival Dinka tribe, according to UN reports. Just a week later another Lou-Nuer attack on a Dinka village killed two dozen more people.

The main victims of Sunday's attacks were also Dinka.

The escalation in the south has raised concerns that tribal fighting could derail preparations for Sudan's national and presidential elections due in April 2010. The elections are required under the 2005 peace deal that ended the north-south civil war.

Sudan is also scheduled to hold a referendum in Jan. 2011 on whether South Sudan should become independent.

South Sudan is still grappling with the legacy of one of Africa's longest and bloodiest civil wars. The two-decade battle between ethnic African southerners and Sudan's Arab-dominated government in the northern capital, Khartoum, killed an estimated 2 million people.

Tension between heavily armed southern tribes has been compounded by competition for scarce water and pasturage. Clashes reignited earlier this year and intensified beyond traditional cattle raids to include attacks on civilians across the entire south.