Suspected Misseriya tribesmen killed at least 29 people, some burned to death, in an attack on a village in the disputed Abyei border region of South Sudan, a regional administrator said.
The status of Abyei was to have been resolved via referendum after a 2005 peace deal preceding South Sudan’s 2011 secession from Sudan, but the vote was not held.
The area, which has oil reserves, is populated by the Ngor Dinka ethnic community and the Arab Misseriya, who usually migrate from Sudan into South Sudan with animals for grazing.
Wednesday’s attack unfolded, said Kuol Alor Kuol, head of the Abyei administration, when tribesmen stormed the Dinka village Kolom near Abyei town and set some dwellings ablaze.
“Bodies burnt and you cannot recognise them,” Kuol said.
It was not immediately clear whether the dead all died in burning homes. Kuol said 18 villagers were injured before tribesmen withdrew.
“The situation at the moment is calm and Abyei-area residents have gone back. They are preparing mass graves for victims,” he said.
The attackers probably aimed to drive locals out of the remote, poorly governed area to enhance access to grazing resources, Kuol said.
There was no immediate comment from the Misseriya.
Oil-producing South Sudan plunged into civil war two years after its 2011 independence when President Salva Kiir sacked former rebel leader Riek Machar as vice president.
After five years of fighting, Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal but still struggle to form a unity government.
The conflict killed an estimated 400 000 people, triggered a famine and created Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.