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UN Urges Calm After Deadly Attack in Disputed Abyei Border Area Between Sudan and South Sudan

FILE - Dinka cattle herdsmen in Abyei..
FILE - Dinka cattle herdsmen in Abyei..

The United Nations is condemning the deadly attack on a village in the disputed oil-rich area of Abyei between Sudan and South Sudan Wednesday. It is calling for calm in the wake of the attack by armed gunmen, which left dozens dead and scores injured.

Armed gunmen reportedly killed 32 people, injured 25 and went on a rampage, burning homes and causing other devastation in the Dinka village of Kolom.

Spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs Jens Laerke tells VOA the attack on Kolom, about 9 kilometers northwest of the town of Abyei, which straddles both sides of the Sudan-South Sudan border, sent people fleeing for their lives. He says the village reportedly has been emptied of its inhabitants.

“I cannot say for sure who instigated the attack," said Laerke. "We were not there to witness what happened. We know it is a Dinka village and that people have left … but we have assessed since the attack that some 500 people are now in Abyei town where they are sheltering, I believe in some schools there.”

In the aftermath of the attack, the U.N. Interim Security Force in Abyei issued a statement saying suspected nomadic Misseriya herders from Sudan attacked Kolom.

This is the latest clash between the Arab Misseriya tribe to the north of the border and the Ngok Dinka to the south since November. This oil-rich region has been in dispute since South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011.

Laerke says humanitarian organizations on the ground are providing healthcare, including emergency surgical operations, to the survivors of the attack.

“OCHA is coordinating humanitarian responders in Abyei and we are working to dispatch an interagency needs assessment team to the area shortly…The continued intercommunal tensions, population movements—including during last year’s flooding—and the absence of public institutions and services have resulted in high humanitarian and recovery needs," said Laerke.

Laerke says the U.N. and humanitarian organizations aim to provide aid to 200,000 people in the Abyei area this year. Priority needs include health, nutrition, food and water as well as protection for people at risk of sexual and gender-based violence and protection for children.