, BOR, July 16 – Long lines of wounded fighters crowd the wards of Bor hospital, the latest casualties of brutal fighting in South Sudan’s troubled Jonglei state.
Lying on a basic mattress in a store room the surgical ward is too full of those with gunshot wounds 15 year old fighter Duol Puol says he went to fight in revenge after Murle fighters attacked his family.
“I should feel sad when we kill them,” said Puol, who joined hundreds of young men from the Lou Nuer community in taking up arms against the rival Murle tribe.
“But because my parents have been killed, I feel happy that at least we are paying them back,” he adds, as other fellow teenage fighters nod in agreement.
Puol fractured his leg while tumbling into a hole as he fled the larger force of a Murle counter attack in the Pibor region of Jonglei, in the east of South Sudan.
“If they killed my parents, their parents also need to be killed,” Puol added.
More than 100 of the fighters flown in for surgery by the United Nations to the state capital, Bor, have gunshot wounds.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF – Medecins Sans Frontieres) is supporting the basic hospital, and South Sudanese army helicopters are also busy transporting the wounded.
Ruot Mabor, aged just 10, joined older boys in the fight.
“Murle killed all my relatives,” Mabor said, explaining why he joined the fight so young. “I knew that Murle could also come and kill me.”
Those wounded said they had tried to bury the bodies of many of their comrades, but no one could give exact figures.
All those being treated are from the Lou Nuer tribe, and were airlifted out from one small settlement, the village of Manyabol, fuelling concerns that the number injured or killed elsewhere in the vast region could be far higher.
Access to Murle territory, where there are similar fears of heavy casualties, is extremely limited.
Thousands of Murle are thought to be hiding in the bush, where aid agencies and the UN peacekeeping mission claim they have been unable to provide aid or protection.
Previous attacks in the strife hit region have seen hundreds, and possibly thousands, of civilians killed.
“Fighting is still going on they are expecting us to be seeing more (casualties),” hospital director Bior Kuer Bior said, repeating stories told by the wounded who have flooded into wards already at breaking point.