Bor — Armed raiders alleged to be Murle tribesmen have taken control of cattle camps and villages in Dengjok Payam (district) of Akobo County, Jonglei State killing many people, sources have told Sudan Tribune.
The fighting, that began at 5am on Friday, comes as Jonglei prepares for a mass disarmament campaign after a series of large scale clashes between rival cattle herding groups in South Sudan's largest state.
Four steam boats full of wounded people reached Akobo town on Friday evening from Dengjok, a resident told Sudan Tribune.
Jonglei State's minister for law enforcement, Gabriel Duop Lam, confirmed the clashes on Friday evening but could not give casualty figures saying he was "still speaking with the [Akobo County] commissioner to get details."
Inter-tribal fighting intensified in Jonglei State last year killing over 1,000 people and displacing thousands more. In December and January 6,000 armed men from the Lou Nuer tribe attacked Pibor County - home to the Murle tribe - in what they said was revenge for an attack in August. The August attack was itself a response to a June raid by the Luo-Nuer.
Jonglei's Akobo, Uror and Nyirol Counties, which belong to the Lou Nuer have witnessed numerous counter raids since January that have been blamed on the Murle. Since December over 120,000 people have been affected by the fighting, according to the UN.
In an attempt to stop the cycle violence South Sudan's army is due to begin a disarmament campaign this month, which is expected to begin 15 March. The raids often occur in remote areas with poor roads making it hard to the South Sudan army (SPLA) and peacekeepers from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) - which complains it does not have the helicopters - to respond to violence in a timely manner.
A source told Sudan Tribune from Akobo town, which is two days walk away from Bor the capital of Jonglei state, that it was difficult to verify the scale of the attack but added that initial reports indicate the fight was "very heavy."
Some of the wounded people were taken from Dengjok Payam to Akobo hospital by four steam boats on Friday, the source said.
The director of the South Sudan Red Cross in Jonglei State, David Gai, said volunteers are assisting in evacuating the wounded from Dengjok, north of Akobo, to the county headquarters.
Nine cattle camps were attacked, an Akobo resident told Sudan Tribune, including Hat, Madies, Kuarnyuin, Kaithilnyer, Bil, Wichol and three camps in Romyieri.
Another source that visited the wounded in Akobo hospital said victims spoke of "hundreds wounded" stranded in an area called Wading.
The raiders are alleged to have occupied the cattle camps and still controlled them on Friday evening, women and children are feared to have been abducted and forced to flee to the bush for safety.
"The cattle camps and villages housing many people are besieged by Murle," the source said.
Local officials told Sudan Tribune that the SPLA in Akobo County remained in their barracks despite repeated calls for them intervene. SPLA commanders in Akobo could not be reach for comment on Friday.
Due to the remoteness of the area and Jonglei's poor communication network Sudan Tribune has not been able to independently verify the figures, the areas attacked or identity of the alleged raiders.
Around 12,000 SPLA troops have been stationed in Jonglei to disarm civilians. Official sources in the state have indicated that South Sudan President Salva Kiir is expected to launch the exercise in person.
Kiir has warned that if civilians do not handover their weapons voluntarily force will be used. The US ambassador to South Sudan Susan Page on Wednesday encouraged the process to be peaceful and voluntary after meeting with Jonglei Governor, Kuol Manyang Juuk.