At least 211 killed in clashes in south Sudan

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Attacks by a renegade militia in south Sudan's Jonglei oil state killed at least 211 people, a southern minister said yesterday, doubling earlier estimates. The violence has reignited concerns for the security of the underdeveloped region where voters last month opted overwhelmingly to declare independence from the north.

South Sudan's army said forces loyal to George Athor, a former army officer who staged a revolt after losing in last year's elections, were responsible for the attacks in Jonglei last week. Army and government officials said yesterday that the scale of the loss emerged after the bodies of women, children and other civilians were found in remote areas.

Pagan Amum, a senior member of the south's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), repeated accusations that the north was trying to destabilise the south by arming militias, but stopped short of implicating northern government figures directly. "It was a massacre of our people and it is really very painful," he said. "We are a society that is traumatised

."Today armed groups are being financed, being armed, being sent into southern Sudan from the north. You know that George Athor – who just caused the massacre in Fangak – his guns are coming from Khartoum.".

Rabie Abdelati, a senior member of the north's dominant National Congress Party (NCP),said: "Athor's is a southern group and there is no connection between the NCP and Athor."

James Kok,a Southern government minister who had just returned from Jonglei, told Reuters that 211 people died in the fighting or later in hospital and at least 109 were wounded. His figures did not include casualties among the militias.