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Deadly Clashes in New South Sudan State Heighten Tensions

FILE - An armed man and a woman talk in Yuai Uror County, South Sudan, July 24, 2013. Tensions remain high after President Salva Kiir issued a decree last November splitting South Sudan's 10 states into 28, including the newly created states of Terkeka and Jubek.

Tensions remain high in Jubek state's Mangala County, or what had been called Central Equatoria state, after an armed group attacked the area in South Sudan during a celebration of the new county government, leaving three soldiers and a woman dead.

Authorities from Jubek state and Terkeka state offered different accounts of who was responsible for Saturday's attack.

Mangala County Commissioner Elario Paul Pataki said four people were killed, seven others wounded, and more than 800 people displaced after an armed tribal group that opposes annexation of the area to Jubek state attacked Mangala. He said those who fled their homes needed help.

"Up to now they are still living in fear. They think that if they return, maybe there will be another attack," the commissioner said.

The old flags of Jemeza County and Terkeka state in Mangala County were being lowered when the armed youths launched their attack, according to Pataki.

But Modi Lomindi, the information minister of Terkeka state, said the armed youths from Terkeka were acting in self-defense after they were attacked by government forces. Lomindi said authorities of Terkeka were not informed about plans to hoist new flags in the county.

"What happened in Mangala was, first of all, uncalled for. And we, as the government of Terkeka state, we were not aware of the goings-on of the commissioner of Mangala County, Jubek state. The authorities, particularly local chiefs and the ministers and others, we were not all aware as brothers and sisters in two states."

Lomindi said authorities of Jubek state deployed army officers past the boundaries of Mangala County into Terkeka state, which led to clashes between the youths and the army.

Pataki said hundreds of women, children and older people who fled into the bush have nothing to eat.

"The civilians have no food to eat; there is also no medication. There is need for food items, then medicines," he said.

Talks continue

Pataki said talks between the governors of Jubek and Terkeka states continue in an effort to calm tensions.

Lomindi said Mangala is an area contested by the people of Terkeka and Jubek states. He said Terkeka state authorities demand that authorities of Jubek state lower all flags hoisted over the weekend in Mangala until the dispute is resolved.

"There is already a formation of a committee that is going to investigate what exactly happened, and this is what the people of Terkeka state and the authorities are looking forward to — to see to it that the committee goes down to the area and be able to find out the facts," Lomindi said.

Last November, President Salva Kiir issued a decree splitting South Sudan's 10 states into 28, including the newly created states of Terkeka and Jubek.

Lomindi called on elders and officials from the two communities to hold emergency meetings and resolve the matter.

SPLA spokesman Brigadier Lull Ruai said it was a state issue.

"We are leaving the matter to state authorities to handle it because it is at their jurisdiction," Ruai said

It was not clear if an investigation was under way.