January 17, 2014 (JUBA) – Heavy fighting in South Sudan’s troubled Unity state spilled over into neighbouring Warrap state on Wednesday, killing at least two people and driving out more than 400 head of cattle.
- The map of Warrap state in red
Two others were also wounded, residents and local officials said, while hundreds more remaining unaccounted for.
Multiple sources said survivors of the attack witnessed assailants using rocket-propelled grenades in addition to machetes and spears “thus overwhelming police and cattle guard forces in the area”.
Karlos Maluil Makuek, deputy chairperson of the Apuk Padoc community and lead coordinator for an SPLM youth initiative in Warrap, told Sudan Tribune that the attack on the area is believed to have been launched by an armed group loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar, who has been accused of masterminding an alleged coup attempt to overthrow the government last month.
According to Makuek, Machar-aligned rebel fighters attacked Aliek payam (district) in Tonj County, raiding 100 cows and killing two people.
In a separate attack on Thursday, Makuek said rebel forces attacked Akop payam, raiding more than 300 head of cattle.
“They raided the cattle camp. These cows were [in] the grazing area when the attackers came this afternoon (Thursday). They also capture five people, one later managed to escape”, he said.
Makuek said health facilities continued to be targeted in violence caused by inter-communal cattle raids, clashes between government and rebels and the government disarmament process.
Makuek has confirmed that “hundreds of families” were still missing after rebel fighters abducted an unknown number of women and children following the attack.
“The attackers left with cattle and hundreds of children and women who have not reported back to the village”, he said, adding that the attack had caught the village by surprise.
“The Gelweng (cattle guard) is trying to retrieve the cattle from the criminals, and that will not be easy”, he said.
The official expressed dissatisfaction with the way the state government had responded to their request for the immediate deployment of armed forces to areas around the border with Unity state.
In a statement on behalf of the Apuk Padoc community bearing his signature, Makuek accused the state government of neglecting the area, appealing to the central administration in Juba to take urgent measures to improve security and protect vulnerable civilians in the area.
“We, the community bordering Unity [state], are appealing to the central government to immediately deploy extra forces to protect the life and properties of our people and to also pursue these rebels who are hiding in swampy areas and flush them out”, he said.
He claimed that community leaders and state MPs had met with Warrap governor Nyandeng Malek, urging her to press the central government to deploy more forces.
The South Sudan army (SPLA) claimed to have recaptured Unity state capital Bentiu last week, which has been in rebel hands since last month, halting oil production in the region.
Rebels said they had made a tactical withdrawal in order to avoid further bloodshed and are planning a fresh offensive to recapture the strategic town.
Makuek said rebels had since scattered to border areas of the state after being repulsed from Bentiu by government forces. He has accused rebels of carrying out attacks and looting in the area, where the security situation continuing to deteriorate.
“We are directly calling on the central government because the state governor is [doing] nothing. We have informed the governor to deploy forces to protect our people”, he said.
At least 1,000 people have been killed in the month-long conflict, with an estimated 230,000 people displaced inside South Sudan, with peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Adaba, between the two warring parties so far failing to make significant headway.