Source: Radio Tamazuj
Government and opposition officials in South Sudan both reported a recent attack in Pigi County of Jonglei State, with conflicting claims about the identity of the attackers. The rest of the state is calm, according to the state information minister.
The government acknowledges it does not control the Atar area where the attack occurred.
Jody Jonglei, State Information Minister, said the attack was launched yesterday on civilians in the Atar area by rebels coming from the Canal area.
He told Radio Tamazuj the rebels killed 17 civilians, including some women and children. He admitted he was not aware of specifics because of the difficulty of communicating with the area, which has little to no communications infrastructure including cell phone networks.
The minister described the incident as ‘an attack’ – not ‘clashes’ – pointing out that there were no government troops in the area. “There is no army in Atar,” he said, referring to loyalist SPLA forces.
Jonglei State has appointed a commissioner for Pigi County in spite of not having established control over the area. The commissioner Abraham Dau Gueng cited the same figure as Jody Jonglei on the number of dead, saying it was 17 people.
He stressed that the area was inhabited by civilians, noting, “There is no government with them.”
The commissioner who was not present in Pigi County said his information about the incident came from officials in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile, which lies downriver from Atar.
He said the officials in Malakal “are not sure now whether the rebels are still there or have withdrawn… the information is not sufficient,” he added, mentioning that there were no phones in Atar.
The commissioner said the date of the attack was Thursday morning, whereas the minister said the date was Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, the SPLA-IO military spokesman Lul Ruai Koang, also described an attack in Pigi County that he said took place on Tuesday, 15 July. It was not clear whether he was referring to the same incident as the other sources, or an earlier incident.
He said that an attack occurred at Mareng village in Pigi County on that date, resulting in four civilian deaths, whom he identified as “three Dinka women and one elderly man.”
He blamed SPLA forces based north of the Sobat River under the Sector Two command. He said these soldiers tried to steal 55 cattle but were driven off by SPLA-IO troops under the command of Maj. Gen. James Mabor Dhoal, who recovered the cattle.
Lul Ruai referred to “attacks on Mareng village and counter attacks to protect civilians,” implying that there were multiple clashes.
Radio Tamazuj was unable to independently verify either account of the incident.
Pigi County is inhabited by two sub-clans of the Padang Dinka, the Atar and the Khorfulus. They are bordered by the Gawaar Nuer and Lou Nuer to the west and south, and by the Shilluk to the north across the Nile, who historically claim the area.