Armed men suspected of being from South Sudan’s Greater Pibor Administrative Area stormed a village Monday in Bor County, killing roughly 17 people according to eyewitnesses and state authorities – the latest attack in a wave of deadly inter-communal clashes across the region.
Eighty-year-old Chuti Maker, who is recovering at Bor state hospital from several knife wounds in the back and chest, said dozens of armed men wearing military uniforms invaded Makol-cuei village Monday afternoon.
“They started shooting randomly and set the houses on fire. We started to run and they chased after us. When they stabbed me on my back, I fell on the ground. I was stabbed again in my chest. When I fell, the two men chasing me started arguing over whether to shoot me or not before they left,” Maker told South Sudan in Focus.
Twenty-seven-year-old eyewitness Akur Aleng, who suffered a broken leg during the attack, said the gunmen killed her father-in-law and abducted her 14-month-old child.
“We heard gunshots toward the east where we have our gardens, and we were confused about what was happening. After a short while a certain gentleman came running and told us to go away as there was an enemy. Just as we were conversing, they arrived and started shooting at us, killing my father-in-law. I rushed to collect my baby to run and they shot me in the leg and the baby dropped. I saw them taking my baby,” Aleng told South Sudan in Focus.
Majok Kelei Deng, first deputy chairman of the Bor community, told South Sudan in Focus the unknown gunmen killed 17 people, injured 9 others and stole several goats.
“Security-wise these days there are a lot of problems and even yesterday we had an incident at Makol-cuei where we lost about 17 people and 9 people have been brought to Bor hospital here,” said Deng.
Deng said he was hopeful things would change after a recent visit by the vice president and President Salva Kiir’s decision to form a high-level committee to address inter-communal fighting between communities in Jonglei and Pibor.
“When Vice President Doctor James Wani left this state, he was actually going to the other communities after he had met the greater Bor communities. He was going to go to the Nuer community and Pibor Administrative Area. We think it is better if they speed up this consultation,” Deng told VOA.
Eight females and one male from Makol-cuei were treated for gunshot wounds, said Bol Chau, director of Bor Civil Hospital.
“One was taken in for operation, this woman had a serious abdominal gunshot injury, and she was taken in for operation, which I hope the outcome will be good,” Chau told South Sudan in Focus.
A handful of security forces and some area youth are looking for the attackers, said Jonglei state police spokesman Major Majak Daniel Tuor.
“Yesterday evening the few police personnel who were present plus the area youth who were available went to pursue the attackers, and up to now we have not got any specific information whether they got the attackers, or unfortunately [if] they returned,” Tuor told South Sudan in Focus.
Judi Jonglei Boyoris, former speaker of the now defunct Boma state, said the attackers came from the Greater Pibor Administrative Area.
“You are talking just about Makol-cuei, where 2 or 10 people went to attack. What about the thousands of people who are still in our area? I mean the authorities of Bor, they should withdraw those people back to their area. As the people are staying in our area, I think the situation will get worse,” Boyoris told South Sudan in Focus.
In an email response, Deborah Schein, head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission field office in Bor, condemned the incident and called on local authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable.
Inter-communal violence also has plagued Sudan’s West Darfur region, where thousands of families were displaced Saturday when armed men suspected of being Janjaweed militia burned down hundreds of homes. More than 60 people were killed in the attack on Misterei village, about 40 kilometers from Al Genena town, according to officials. A member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council said troops were dispatched to the area to restore peace and stability in West Darfur.
Sudan’s Interior Minister Al Tirefi Iddris said Monday in Khartoum the government was sending a joint force comprised of Sudanese armed forces, police, and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces to the area.
Al Genena town resident Adam Rijal told South Sudan in Focus the attackers went on a rampage, destroying property, killing livestock, and raping women and young girls.
“The latest attack on Misterei village led to the killing of 60 people and 54 injured. The wounded have been transported to the military hospital in Al Genena town. Thousands of civilians in villages around Al Genena have fled to the town, Rijal said.
Mohammed Ould Bouasria, Acting UNICEF Representative in Sudan, said Tuesday the U.N. agency received reports that “1,500 houses were burned down, leaving families without shelter or basic services as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”
UNICEF urged all those involved in the violence to protect children at all times, in line with International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law, adding, “nothing justifies attacks on children.”
Carol Van Dam Falk contributed to this report.