, CAIRO, Oct 5 – At least 23 people were killed and more than a thousand fled their homes in ethnic clashes in volatile south Sudan over the weekend, a Sudanese official said on Monday.
Dinka and Mundari tribesmen clashed throughout the weekend in two Central Equatoria State villages near the southern capital of Juba, Hussein Mar, deputy governor of neighbouring Jonglei state, told AFP.
"The violence killed at least 23 people, including six civilians and four soldiers," he said, adding that 1,700 had been displaced in the fighting.
Parts of the Christian and animist south have been rocked by ethnic violence over the past year.
More than 2,000 people have died and 250,000 been displaced in inter-tribal violence across the south since January, according to the United Nations, with the rate of violent deaths now exceeding that of war-torn Darfur in west Sudan.
Clashes between rival ethnic groups in southern Sudan erupt frequently — often sparked by cattle rustling and disputes over natural resources, while others are in retaliation for previous attacks.
However, a wave of recent raids has shocked many, with an apparent sharp rise in attacks on women and children and the targeting of homesteads.
Sixteen people were killed on Saturday in clashes between forces loyal to an ex-warlord and the governor’s guards in oil-rich Unity State.
Last month, more than 100 people were killed in several days of clashes in the troubled Jonglei state.
Southern officials have accused Khartoum of arming some ethnic groups, an accusation Sudan’s government denies.
North-south tensions remain high, with the country still divided by the religious, ethnic and ideological differences that fuelled a 22-year civil war which ended in a 2005 peace deal.
Under that deal, the south has a six-year transitional period of regional autonomy and takes part in a unity government until a 2011 referendum on self-determination.