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Dozens killed in tribal attacks in disputed Abyei area

 People gather around a house burnt by Misseriya gunmen in Komol of Abyei area on 22 January 2020 (ST photo)
January 22, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - More than twenty people were killed in the disputed area of Abyei after tribal attacks by Misseriya armed men on a Dinka Ngok village, according to the UN peacekeeping mission (UNISFA) and local leaders.

"19 people are reportedly dead and 25 wounded while three children are reportedly missing and 19 houses burnt from the Dinka community," said UNISFA on Wednesday.

The Mission Spokesman Daniel Adekera told Sudan Tribune that the two sides had already clashed in Kolom on 20 January 2020.

"Three people were killed, one of them a Dinka, (on Monday)," he added.

Accordingly, the death toll has risen to 22 people killed during the clashes on Monday and Wednesday.

For his part, a Dinka Ngok administrative leader Kuol Alor Kuol told the AFP that 32 people were killed and over 15 people were abducted by the assailants.

The cause of the clashes is not clear but the cattle rustling is one of the sources of violence in the area.

However, Kuol told Reuters that attackers wanted to drive Dinka Ngok out of the area "enhance their access to grazing resources".

There is no local police or administrative structures in Abyei.

The Dinka Ngok call to hold a referendum on the future of the area which remains a Sudanese territory to allow them to join South Sudan.

However, the parties’ failure on who can participate in the vote prevented the organization of the referendum as agreed in the 2005 agreement which paved the way for the independence of South Sudan in July 2011.

The border straddling-area of Abyei was seen in the past as a bridge between the north and south Sudan and a model of peaceful coexistence.

However, the 10,500 km area is now an obstacle for the development of good relations between Khartoum and Juba due to the political and security vacuum.

The UNISFA deployed troops in the area to contain the situation and prevent escalation as armed men from both sides are converging to Kolom.

The peacekeeping force further warned the conflicting parties against the resumption of clashes.

"UNISFA would like to reiterate that any presence of armed groups within the Abyei box other than its own troops is viewed by the mission as a violation of its mandate and will not hesitate to place responsibility on those engaged in such violations".

The Sudanese transitional government issued a statement condemning the tribal violence

"Thirty-two people were killed among them children and women, and secondly about 24 people are wounded ... about 15 people including children were abducted and 20 houses burned," Kuol Alor Kuol, the chief administrator of the Abyei area, told AFP news agency.

In Khartoum, the Sudanese government condemned the attacks on civilians by the armed men.

The government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Saleh further called on UNISFA forces in the region to control security and protect civilians.

(ST)