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Gunmen increase roadside attacks in South Sudan

September 10, 2016 (JUBA)- Nearly a dozen people were killed on one of South Sudan’s most important roads Friday morning, when unknown gunmen opened fire on a bus and two other vehicles.

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General view of Juba Nimule road leading to Nimule Park and neighbouring Uganda (Pinterest photo)

The episode is the latest in a series of attacks on the highway connecting the South Sudan capital, Juba to neighbouring Uganda.

The mid-morning attack occurred in the Madi corridor area along Juba-Nimule high way, where dissident armed youth groups from the area believed to be allied to armed opposition leader and the former first vice president, Riek Machar have a strong presence.

According to traffic police officers and local area residents, the gunmen fired on a bus and two trucks, killing nine passengers.

“We have been talking about the need to increase the number of the forces along this road but nothing has been done so far. We decided to stop talking and just watch the events as they unfold because it is important to be heard than to keep talking without someone listening to you. It’s like you are making a noise to the people”, explained a customs officer who preferred anonymity.

He said armed activities have increased on the road, indicating the group involved in carrying out such acts are determined to affect the only road connecting the region.

“The way these activities have increased recently is like the group operating on this road is determined to engage in sabotage act. They are using military tactics and are also using modern weapons”, he added.

Increased roadside ambushes have reduced the number of commercial vehicles and travelers have long had to contend with multiple checkpoints and act of banditry. But last month’s killing of national security personnel on patrol have rattled travelers, with bus companies reporting that the number of passengers plying the Juba-Nimule road had dropped to about half of what it was in past years.

Barely three days before Friday’s attack on the same highway, two passenger buses traveling in opposite directions collided resulting in the loss of lives as their drivers as they avoided being attacked in areas marked as deadly for similar attacks on vehicles.

South Sudan police spokesperson, Daniel Justin confirmed on Saturday that eight passengers were shot dead on buses traveling between Juba and Nimule on Friday morning. The passengers died in four separate mini buses that were attacked.

In a related development two fuel tankers were set alight resulting into the burning one driver to death.

The country’s police and national security services have accused Madi tribal forces, under the command of Martin Kenyi, of allegedly carrying out these attacks. Kenyi is one of Machar’s commanders in area.