S Sudan attack kills 7 and raises fears of escalation

Armed men raided a south Sudan village, killing seven people and burning 120 houses, a government official said, in an attack which raised fears that inter-tribal violence will escalate.
The United Nations says the violence, fuelled largely by cattle raids and revenge attacks, has already killed more than 1200 people this year. Analysts believe that the insecurity could affect elections next year and a southern referendum on secession in 2011.
Tut Nyang, a local official from Jonglei state, said the latest attack happened on Friday night. “The attackers killed seven and wounded nine,” he told Reuters.
“This is retaliation,” he said. “They said that they will continue attacking but we don’t know if they will continue attacking this place or other places.”
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has blamed his former northern foes for arming rival militias in an attempt to destabilise the south before the elections due in April 2010. Khartoum denies this.
But some southern politicians say the violence stems from rival locals vying to cement support before the vote. UN sources say the violence seems largely local, caused by a security vacuum in the remote area where southern authorities rarely venture.
Long-standing tribal rivalries have been exacerbated by decades of civil war leaving a mass of angry, armed young men. The semi-autonomous southern government set up under a 2005 north-south peace deal has struggled to establish order outside urban centres.

Pic: South Sudan village