More than 3,000 people were killed in South Sudan in brutal massacres last week in bloody ethnic violence that forced thousands to flee, the top local official in the affected area said Friday.
United Nations and South Sudanese army officials have yet to confirm the death tolls and the claims from the remote region could not be independently verified. If confirmed, the killings would be the worst outbreak of ethnic violence ever seen in the fledgling nation, which split from Sudan in July. A column of some 6,000 rampaging armed youths from the Lou Nuer tribe last week marched on the remote town of Pibor, home to the rival Murle people, whom they blame for cattle raiding and have vowed to exterminate.
The Lou Nuer gunmen attacked Pibor and only withdrew after government troops opened fire. Over a thousand children are missing, feared abducted, while tens of thousands of cows were stolen, Konyi added, who comes from the Murle ethnic group. The UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Lise Grande, said earlier this week that she feared "tens, perhaps hundreds" could have died.
Ethnic violence, cattle raids and reprisal attacks in the vast eastern state left over 1,100 people dead and forced some 63,000 from their homes last year, according to UN reports based on local authorities and assessment teams.