South Sudan residents with gunshot and stab wounds continue to emerge from the bush weeks after a massive tribe-on-tribe attack killed an untold number of people, an international medical group said Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of residents in Jonglei state fled columns of approaching warriors during tribal attacks that began around Christmas and carried on until around New Year's.
"One recurring characteristic of the attacks in Jonglei is their extreme violence," Doctors Without Borders said Tuesday, describing the account of one woman who said she ran away from attackers for 11 hours.
She and her 15 family members were then found by a group of men who beat her daughter and shot at them, she told the medical group, wounding her in the thigh and her son in the chest. The boy survived.
A 24-year-old woman who was shot in the leg and cheek told Doctors Without Borders that her village was the first to be attacked. When Lou Nuer warriors arrived, she and two other women fled with their children.
"We ran and tried to hide in the high grass when we heard them approaching. But they heard my child crying so they found us three women and the three children. They abducted my child and slit the throats of the two boys in front of us. They told us three women to run. We ran 10 meters (yards) and they started shooting. The other two women were killed right away," the woman said.
Doctors Without Borders said its workers have seen dozens of gunshot and stab wounds at one hospital and that 25 of their local staff of 156 remain missing. The group said one of their clinics in the village of Lekwongole was largely destroyed.
The U.N. has said that more than 120,000 people need humanitarian aid after columns of Lou Nuer fighters attacked Murle communities in the remote and volatile region. Since that late December assault, Murle fighters have carried out several revenge attacks on the Lou Nuer.
No reliable death toll for the clashes has yet been established. One official said more than 3,000 people died in the original Lou Nuer attack, but that toll has not been confirmed by the central government or the U.N.
"A deeply worrisome pattern is emerging, where people and their scarce resources are deliberately targeted by all the armed groups in this inter-communal violence," the statement said. "Hospitals, health clinics, water sources _ these have become targets for armed groups on all sides, suggesting a tactic of depriving people of their basic life essentials just when they will need them most, after fleeing into the bush."
South Sudan broke away from Sudan in July and is struggling to contain internal violence that has plagued the region for years.