Jonglei, S. Sudan: Mostly Lou-Nuer women and children killed in Akobo massacre by group of Murle from the east
Thu Aug 6, 2009 10:53am EDT
By Andrew Heavens
KHARTOUM, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Survivors of a tribal massacre that killed 185 people in southern Sudan are desperately short of food, a senior U.N. officer said on Thursday.
Mostly women and children were killed in the raid by heavily armed members of the Murle tribe on a fishing camp in Sudan's swampy Jonglei state on Sunday, in what is thought to be a revenge attack for earlier fighting.
The killings, near the town of Akobo, were the latest in a string of ethnic clashes in Sudan's oil-producing south, many of them attacks and counter attacks provoked by cattle rustling.
Traditional disputes have been exacerbated by a ready supply of arms left over from more than two decades of a north-south civil war that ended in a fragile 2005 peace accord.
The head of the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) in the south, who has just returned from the Akobo area, said she saw piles of bodies and signs of food shortages.
"I saw dozens and dozens of dead bodies. The stench and the vultures gave us a clue to the magnitude," Michelle Iseminger said in a statement. "Clearly women and children were the majority of victims.
"People said that a group of Murle from the east attacked them and pushed them into the river, and, using machine guns, spears and other arms, continued killing them," Iseminger said.
Jonglei officials said most of the victims were from the Lou Nuer group, locked in a tribal war with the Murle that has already claimed more than 700 lives this year.
They estimated 185 people, including a small unit of southern soldiers protecting the camp, were killed in the raid which was later condemned by the U.N. Security Council.
Iseminger said dried fish was the only food she could see for sale in Akobo markets and that some 350 children, suffering from earlier food shortages, were being treated for severe malnutrition in the town's hospital.
"Food assistance is the number one humanitarian need in Akobo, besides protection," said Iseminger.
Emergency food supplies in the area started running low after members of the Jikany Nuer tribe, who have also been fighting the Lou Nuer, attacked a convoy of barges carrying U.N. aid long the Sobat river, close to the border with Ethiopia, towards Akobo in June.
Since then, the United Nations has had to use aircraft and helicopters to fly in smaller loads of food at greater expense.
The 2005 peace accord that ended Sudan's civil war promised national elections, due in April next year, and a referendum on southern secession in 2011. But many in the south are frustrated by the continuing lack of development and economic stagnation. (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)