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Civilians killed in disputed Sudanese Abyei region

  • 17 May 2021

Regional officials say at least 12 people killed in a suspected herdsmen attack on a village east of main town in Abyei, a disputed region under UN protection since South Sudan gained independence in 2011.

In this June 27, 2020 file photo, trainees parade with the wooden mock guns in Owiny Ki-Bul, Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan. ( AP Archive )

At least 12 civilians have been killed in a contested oil-rich border region claimed by Sudan and South Sudan in what local government officials said was a massacre by nomadic herdsmen.

The attack took place early on Sunday at a village some 64 km east of the main town in Abyei, a disputed region under UN protection since South Sudan gained independence in 2011.

Kon Manyiet Matiok, the deputy chief administrator of the Abyei Administrative Area, said on Monday that armed Misseriya herders from Sudan stormed the village of the Dunguob before dawn.

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Formal investigation under way

"They attacked the area from three different directions, and the result was the killing of 12 people," said Matiok, adding that seven others were hospitalised with serious wounds.

"Abyei Administration and the entire people of Abyei condemn in the strongest terms possible this brutal, barbaric and cowardly attack and killing of innocent people."

Matiok said the same herdsmen – who have been implicated by the UN in past atrocities – were responsible for a separate incident on Friday where an elderly man was killed and another wounded.

A spokesman for the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), which deployed to the region in 2011, put the death toll from Sunday's attack at 11 and said a formal investigation had been launched.

"Of course our troops, immediately on hearing the report, went to the scene but unfortunately the attackers already left the place," UNISFA spokesman Daniel Adekera told AFP news agency, adding no arrests had so far been made.

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UN mission in South Sudan

This month the UN Security Council passed a resolution prolonging until November 15 the UNISFA peacekeeping mission, after Sudan and South Sudan failed to reach an agreement on the disputed territory.

UNISFA is around 4,000 strong and consists mostly of Ethiopian troops, and was deployed in 2011 after deadly clashes displaced some 100,000 people.

The Security Council has ordered that Abyei remain demilitarised from any forces, including armed elements of local communities.

But there have long been tensions between the South Sudanese Ngok Dinka community and the Misseriya herders, nomads who traverse the area looking for grazing.

UNISFA has initiated peace talks between the two groups but civilian killings are not uncommon.

In April 2020, UNISFA said the Misseriya were behind a bloody raid on a village that left four people dead and dwellings in ashes. In January that same year, at least 19 people were killed in another attack blamed on the herdsmen.

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