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42 Civilians Killed in Clashes in South Sudan's Gok Community

Gok state officials said Tuesday more than 40 people were killed and more than 50 others were wounded in a wave of inter-communal fighting over the weekend between the Waat and Ayel communities in Cueibet County. State authorities deployed police and soldiers to prevent more violence from erupting in the area.

Local leaders said armed youth from Waat carried out revenge attacks against the Ayiel community on Saturday, which led to more fighting Sunday between the two communities in the state capital, Cueibet.

Isaac Mayom Malek, Gok state Minister for Local Government and Law Enforcement, called it revenge fighting, adding "It resulted in [the] killing of 42 people from both sides."

Malek said 53 men from both communities are being treated at various health facilities.

"About twenty-something are in Cueibet hospital and 13 were referred to Rumbek [hospital]. Those with severe injuries were taken to Rumbek and about 20 are in Adhorow Primary Health Care Center," Malek said.

Tensions between the Waat and Ayiel communities date back to 2012. At that time, according to Malek, the Waat community accused someone in the Ayiel community of killing a child from Waat. "Twenty-two people were killed in that incident," Malek said.

Investigation under way

Gok State Governor Madhang Majok chaired a State Security Committee meeting Monday to talk about how to end the violence. Malek said military troops and police were deployed to stop the fighting between cattle keepers and local residents, and to investigate who started it.

"We have sent four commissioners to go and talk to the cattle keepers who are camping three hours from here to move far away from the state headquarters," Majok said.

Cueibet County Commissioner Peter Anyoun Dut, who also is a member of the committee appointed by the governor, said the panel is gathering information from local chiefs to help identify the perpetrators of crimes committed last weekend.

"We are trying now to sum up the number of the houses burned and to know the number of items looted and casualties; also, those who lost their lives," Dut said.

Dut described the situation in Cueibet as calm on Tuesday, saying residents are going about their day-to-day activities.

Malek urged residents of both communities to remain calm.

Late last month, 20 people were killed and 18 others were injured when members of the Waat and Yiel communities fought in Cueibet County.

South Sudan descended into chaos in December 2013 after a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar led to deadly fighting between different ethnic communities across the country.