"In Akobo East County, the town of Deng Jok was attacked and 22 people were killed," Jonglei Governor Kuol Manyang told AFP on Monday, adding that 20 more were seriously wounded and had been taken to hospital. “Also an attack was made in Kaikuin village, Akobo West – two women were killed and cattle taken,” he said, adding the attacks took place Sunday.
South Sudan has declared Jonglei a national "disaster area" while the United Nations has said it will launch a “massive” emergency operation to help some 60,000 people affected by the violence.
In a dramatic escalation of bitter tit-for-tat attacks, an 8,000-strong militia army from the Lou Nuer tribe earlier this month marched on Pibor, home to the rival Murle people, whom they blame for abductions and cattle raiding.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Lise Grande, said last week that “tens, perhaps hundreds” could have died in the latest outbreak of violence in the world's newest nation, which only declared independence six months ago.
The latest clashes were in homeland areas of the Lou Nuer people, but the attackers were reported not to be Murle as they live to the south of Akobo, while the gunmen this time had come from the west.
Crops had been razed, herds of cattle stolen and houses burnt around the village of Deng Jok, said Both Jangjuol, a local aid worker based there. “I'm looking around and there's smoke coming from everywhere,” he said.
Jangjuol said he helped bury around 20 dead on Sunday night, mostly women and children, while 11 children were still missing. Ten police officers had tried in vain to fend off the attackers but they had received no reinforcements to support them, he added.
"We don't have guns, we are pretty much sitting ducks", he said.