At least 36 civilians have been killed and 31 others injured in a rebel assault on Duk County in South Sudan’s vast and restive Jonglei State, officials have said.
According to County Commissioner Elijah Mochnom Wuor, there was a fierce attack on Duk Padiet village at the end of last week.
“We have now confirmed 36 people dead, 31 injured and seven missing,” Mr Mochnom said. “All the dead are civilians.”
Mr Mochnom said the rebels, who had threatened to march to the Jonglei State capital Bor after seizing the village, are now withdrawing.
Rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said his forces also killed more than 100 government troops, a claim the military has denied.
“We are getting reports that these rebels killed the civilians. Reports coming in put the figure at nearly 40,” military spokesman Col Philip Aguer said.
“Killing civilians is their (rebels) habit. Their aim is to loot, kill and destroy property. We are calling on the international community to condemn this action,” he said.
Widespread violence gripped South Sudan following a failed December 15 coup in Juba blamed on former Vice President turned rebel leader Dr Riek Machar Teny.
The fighting has escalated despite a ceasefire deal between the government and Dr Riek’s forces to end more than three months of conflict.
Western nations have called upon the two parties to the conflict to respect the deal and cooperate with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) to reach lasting peace.
“We are deeply concerned by ongoing violations by all parties of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and urge all parties to the conflict to immediately comply with that agreement, and cooperate with the Igad monitoring and verification efforts,” according to a statement signed by the Ambassadors and Chargé d'Affaires a.i. of the US, United Kingdom, Norway, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and the European Union.
The United Nations has also warned of an increasing humanitarian crisis in the world’s newest state.