October 23, 2013 (JUBA) – Rebel leader David Yau Yau has denied responsibility for an attack on Jonglei state’s Twic East county, which left over 70 people dead and some 88 others injured.
Armed gunmen from Yau Yau’s native Murle tribe have been widely blamed for Sunday’s attack on the Paker and Ajuong payams [districts] in which houses were set ablaze and hundreds of head of cattle were stolen.
Several women and children are also believed to have been abducted from their homes during the attack, state officials say.
Authorities put the death toll at 78, including 10 women and five children.
In a telephone interview with Voice of America (VOA), Yau Yau said the fighting was most likely inter-communal.
“They (attackers) are not from our group. Our group remain where they are. Our attacks are not against civilian populations”, VOA quoted Yau Yau as saying.
However, Jonglei state governor Hussein Maar said there is evidence to suggest Yau Yau loyalists were behind the attack.
According to Maar, the attackers were seen moving towards Greater Pibor with cattle stolen during the raid.
The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA) said its humanitarian air service evacuated 49 people from Twic East following the attack - 30 of whom were flown to the state capital, Bor while 19 others were sent to Juba for treatment.
“These attacks are a stain on the progress that South Sudan has made as a new nation. We condemn any form of ethnic violence and encourage South Sudanese of all ethnicities to stand together peacefully in the face of this horrific attack”, US ambassador to South Sudan Susan Page said in a statement issued on Monday.
The UN has called on the South Sudanese government to step up efforts to strengthen law and order and ensure humanitarian access to all areas affected by violence.
About 10 men from the Murle tribe are reported to have been killed, with further casualties believed to be hiding in the bush.
There are fears the attack could jeopardise efforts by the country’s leadership to find a lasting solution for peace in the region.
Yau Yau first launched his rebellion in his home county of Pibor after losing his bid to join state parliament in the 2010 general elections, amid claims the voting was rigged by the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
Jonglei has continued to be the scene of repeated insecurity and tribal conflict since Yau Yau launched a second insurgency in 2012.