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Tribal violence kills at least 160 in Sudan

More than 160 people, mostly women and children, were killed when heavily armed south-Sudan tribal fighters launched a dawn raid on a rival group.

Men from the Murle ethnic group attacked a camp in the Akobo area of the region’s swampy Jonglei state, where oil exploration is under way, on Sunday morning. “A hundred women and children, 50 men and 11 SPLA [soldiers from the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army] are being buried by the riverside this morning,” said Akobo commissioner Goi Jooyul Yol. “There may still be bodies in the bush, we don’t yet know the full number.”

He said a small force of southern soldiers that had been stationed in the area to protect the settlement was overrun by the attacking Murle. Officials said most of the victims were from the Lou Nuer group, who are locked in a tribal war with the Murle that has claimed more than 700 lives this year.

Analysts say the extensive targeting of women and children, and the number of dead, mark a worrying development. The south’s President, Salva Kiir, has blamed political agitators who he said wanted to show that the south cannot run itself ahead of a promised 2011 referendumon separation from northern Sudan.