Rumbek — 12 men suspected to have participated in the killing of seven South Sudanese soldiers and three civilians from neighbouring Warrap have been arrested in Lakes State, according to local authorities.
The incident occurred on Thursday when South Sudan's army (SPLA) accompanied three men from Warrap to a cattle camp belonging to the Dinka Gok in Cueibet County to try and identify cows that had been stolen from them last year.
Responding to the clash on Friday, Lakes State's Governor Chol Tong Mayay instructed his minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency, Benjamin Makuer Mabor, to travel to Malual-chum cattle camp in Tiap-tiap payam [district] of Cueibet County to investigate the violence.
Makuer told Sudan Tribune on Sunday that the 12 suspects were being held at Rumbek Central Correctional Prison, while "serious investigations" were continuing to arrest others.
At least seven soldiers and three civilians, he said were killed, while three SPLA officers sustained injuries during the clash.
These civilians were reportedly angry that the SPLA had brought pastoralists from Warrap to search for their lost cattle, a move which prompted them to attack the soldiers using sticks and managed to capture 12 firearms from them. This according to Makuer, is what sparked off the firefight.
While arresting the suspects, he said, authorities managed recapture 8 AK47 rifles, adding that he was confident that the other guns will be returned to the state headquarters.
"According the intelligence reports we are getting, 15 pastoralists youth participated in this killing of soldiers. We are sure all suspected people will be capture and arrested as well investigation will continue," the minister said.
Cattle raiding is a major issue in South Sudan, with the practice and related violence killing hundreds each year. There are still a large number of small arms believed to be in the hands of civilians in South Sudan, a legacy of the civil war that led to South Sudan's independence in 2011 and the mixed results from previous disarmament campaigns.