U.N. says 600 die in South Sudan clashes

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 22, 2011 6:16 PM
U.N. says 600 die in South Sudan clashes

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Clashes in South Sudan have left at least 600 people dead and hundreds wounded, and possibly displaced more than a quarter million people, the U.N. Mission in South Sudan said on Monday.

The U.N. mission in the country, known as UNMISS, has reported deadly tribal clashes in recent days in South Sudan, signaling instability just weeks after the region gained independence from Khartoum.

"This cycle of violence must stop," said U.N. special representative in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson.

"That so many people have been killed and injured again in such wanton destruction is unacceptable," she said in a statement. "I urge restraint by both sides of this tragic conflict. Reconciliation efforts are now urgently needed."

The fighting in the region is often sparked by disputes over cattle -- a vital part of the indigenous economy.

The statement said at least 600 people were killed and that UNMISS had unconfirmed reports of 750-985 people wounded. Local reports received by UNMISS suggest that between 26,000 and 30,000 cattle were stolen during the attacks and many homes destroyed, the mission said.

It added that state authorities told UNMISS that more than 250,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Pieri, Motat and Pulchol villages in Uror county, Jonglei state, while nearly 200 people may have been abducted.

Johnson also condemned the looting and destruction of humanitarian facilities in South Sudan.

"The humanitarian impartiality of such facilities must be respected by all," she said.

The north and south split on July 9 in line with the results of a January referendum on southern independence required under a 2005 peace that ended decades of north-south civil war.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; editing by Christopher Wilson)