From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Feb 15 2011 - 11:13:05 EST
Over 200 dead in south Sudan "massacre": officials
Tue Feb 15, 2011 1:42pm GMT
* Renegade militia attacks kill more than 200
* Death toll is double previous estimate
* Attacks raise security fears after referendum
(Adds northern denial)
By Jeremy Clarke
JUBA, Sudan, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Attacks by a renegade militia in south
Sudan's Jonglei oil state killed at least 211 people, a southern minister
said on Tuesday, doubling earlier estimates of the death count.
The violence has reignited concerns for the security of the underdeveloped
region where voters last month overwhelmingly voted to declare independence
from the north in a referendum.
South Sudan's army said forces loyal to George Athor, a former army officer
who launched a revolt after losing in last year's elections, carried out
attacks in Jonglei last week.
French oil group Total leads a consortium controlling a largely unexplored
oil concession in Jonglei.
Army and government officials on Tuesday told Reuters the scale of the
carnage emerged after searches found bodies of women, children and other
civilians still lying in remote areas.
Pagan Amum, a senior member of the south's ruling party, repeated
accusations that the north was trying to destabilise the south by arming
militias -- but stopped short of directly implicating northern government
"It was a massacre of our people and it is really very painful," he told
reporters. "We are a society that is traumatised ... Guns are in a lot of
"Today armed groups are being financed, being armed, being sent into
southern Sudan from the north. You know that George Athor who just caused
the massacre in Fangak, his guns are coming from Khartoum," said Amum,
secretary general of the dominant Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).
Rabie Abdelati, a senior member of the north's dominant National Congress
Party (NCP), denied the accusation.
"Athor's is a southern group and there is no connection between the NCP and
Athor," he told Reuters.
Southern government minister James Kok, who had just returned from Jonglei,
told Reuters 211 people died in the fighting or later in hospital and at
least 109 were wounded. His figures did not include casualties among the
The dead included people who had just returned to the south to take part in
the referendum, said the southern army spokesman Philip Aguer.
"Some were trying to flee the fighting and drowned in the river. Some were
returnees from the north who were living under trees and were caught
unawares," he added.
The referendum was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil
war between the mostly Muslim north and the south where most follow
Christianity and traditional beliefs.
Last month's referendum was largely peaceful and the NCP, led by president
Omar Hassan al-Bashir, said it accepted the result. The south is due to
secede on July 9.
The latest killings underline the deep ethnic and political divides that
remain in the south. Death counts topping 100 were reported in a spate of
clashes between tribal groups and militias in 2009 and early 2010.
Athor was a senior member of the then rebel southern army during the civil
war. He stood for the governorship of Jonglei as an independent in last
year's general elections and took to the bush after losing, accusing the
SPLM of fraud.
Two million people were killed and 4 million fled during the civil war
fought over ideology, oil, ethnicity and religion.
The fighting also set southern tribe against southern tribe, with the north
backing militias from rival ethnic groups. (Reporting by Jeremy Clarke;
writing by Andrew Heavens; editing by Giles Elgood and Sonya Hepinstall)
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
FACTBOX-South Sudan's renegade General George Athor
Tue Feb 15, 2011 3:57pm GMT
Feb 15 (Reuters) - South Sudanese leaders said on Tuesday more than 200
people, mostly civilians, have been killed in attacks by renegade militia
leader George Athor in the region's Jonglei state.
Following are some facts about Athor, a destabilising force in the
oil-producing region as it prepares for independence on July 9.
-- George Athor was an influential commander in the southern army and
veteran of the south's long civil war with the north before he rebelled last
year. Records show he remained loyal to then rebel leader John Garang during
a major rift in the movement in the 1990s. He rose to the rank of
-- Athor was one of a handful of prominent members of the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement (SPLM) who felt overlooked when the party nominated
candidates for last April's presidential and legislative elections. He stood
as an independent for the governorship of the south's swampy Jonglei state
and lost to SPLM incumbent Kuol Manyang.
-- The first sign of Athor's revolt came in an attack on a southern army
barracks on Doleib Hill, on the border with neighbouring Upper Nile state in
late April. The southern army said Athor's men, backed up by supporters
inside the barracks, seized arms and ammunition. Athor denied direct
involvement in the attack, saying soldiers loyal to him rebelled after
receiving orders to arrest him.
-- Athor's demands have varied over time. Soon after his revolt, he accused
the SPLM of rigging the election. He told Reuters he wanted Manyang to be
replaced as governor of Jonglei, the removal of the state's county
commissioners and an amnesty for his troops. Several times over the
following months, he said he was ready for talks about unspecified
democratic reforms. Both sides continue to say they are open to
-- Reports of the size of Athor's rebel force have varied widely. The
southern army said he attacked the Doleib barracks with up to 140 men. In
later clashes, the army said he only had a handful of supporters left, most
loyalists from his home Pigi county. Southern army spokesman Philip Aguer
said on Tuesday he thought Athor now had about 2,000 troops. Athor himself
says he leads a force of thousands, capable of taking major centres across
-- U.N. officials and other analysts initially feared Athor was planning to
join forces with other renegade militia leaders who either launched or
threatened uprisings at the same time. After a series of clashes, Athor's
forces remained focused in remote border areas between Jonglei and Upper
Nile. Some of the other renegades eventually accepted a pardon offered by
southern president Salva Kiir in October.
-- Athor finally agreed a truce with Juba in early January, days before
voting started in south Sudan's independence referendum, a vote promised in
the 2005 accord that ended Sudan's north-south civil war. Southerners
overwhelmingly voted for independence in results released last week.
Celebrations were marred by a series of outbreaks of violence, capped by the
clashes in Jonglei. Athor accused the SPLA of starting the fighting.
-- SPLM leaders have accused Khartoum of flying in arms and cash for Athor's
troops in a bid to destabilise the region. They say Khartoum wants to keep
control of the south's oil. Both Athor and Khartoum dismiss the accusations.
The southern army said Athor's men have recently been laying landmines and
attacked Jonglei's Fangak and Door settlements last week with machine guns
-- Both Athor and Kuol Manyang are members of the south's Dinka people,
though from different sub-groups. (Reporting by Andrew Heavens and Jeremy
Clarke; Editing by Jon Hemming)
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
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