Sudan’s top military leader has ordered an investigation into an attack Wednesday by hundreds of armed nomads that left 41 people dead. It is the latest in a series of lethal clashes in recent months in the Abyei Special Administrative Area, a disputed border area between Sudan and South Sudan.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Thursday called for the formation of a seven-member panel of top military, police and public prosecutors. It's expected to investigate the root causes of the yearslong conflict and figure out how to end the violence. Most Abyei residents are South Sudanese Dinka Ngok, but the area also is the seasonal home of the Sudanese Arab Misseriya herder tribe.
On Wednesday, more than 350 Misseriya tribesmen attacked the localities of Leu Boma, Noong Boma and Amiet market in the eastern and northern parts of Abyei town, said Ajak Deng Miyan, spokesperson for the administrative district.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the region – the U.N. Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) – said Thursday that 12 suspected Misseriya attackers had been arrested and detained at the mission’s headquarters in Todach. The suspects’ AK-47 rifles and grenades also were seized.
Sudanese Misseriya paramount chief Mukhtar Babo Nimir admitted that men from his community attacked Abyei, but he said they did so in self-defense. He told South Sudan in Focus he regretted the loss of lives on both sides.
“Even if one person is killed, we will be held responsible for this,” Nimir said. “We are supposed to live as one people. We have vast land that all of us can occupy. Our ancestors lived together for more than a hundred years. ... Why can’t we live together as one people?”
A month ago, Major General Benjamin Olufemi Sawyer took over as acting head of mission from Ethiopia’s Major General Kefyalew Amde Tessema, who served for close to two years.
VOA's Carol Van Dam Falk contributed to this report.