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Sudan fighting kills 76

Militias burn more than 2,000 homes in a village as violence surges in southern Sudan.

September 22, 2009|Edmund Sanders and Alsanosi Ahmed

NAIROBI, KENYA, AND KHARTOUM, SUDAN — Ethnic fighting in southern Sudan claimed 76 lives over the weekend as tribal militias attacked the village of Duk Padiet, burning more than 2,000 homes, officials said Monday.

Among the dead were about two dozen government security officers who were defending the village, according to Maj. Gen. Kuol Diem Kuol, spokesman for the southern Sudan army. At least 46 people were injured and 1,800 were left homeless, he said.

The raid was part of a surge in violence in southern Sudan that has killed more than 2,000 people this year and displaced 250,000, according to the United Nations.

Cattle-rustling and competition for food and land are blamed for much of the bloodshed.

"One attack leads to another, resulting in a spiral of attack and counterattacks," Lise Grande, the U.N. deputy resident humanitarian coordinator in southern Sudan, said at a briefing last month. "The fact that these attacks are targeting civilians, mostly women and children, is a very disturbing trend."

But some government officials in southern Sudan, which fought a 21-year civil war against the north that ended in 2005, also see political motivations behind the fighting. They accuse their northern counterparts of secretly arming some southern tribes in an attempt to create instability before a 2011 referendum in which southerners are expected to vote to secede from the north.

"This is a campaign against the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," Mayen Ngor, commissioner of nearby Duk County, told Reuters news agency, referring to the 2005 peace treaty between the north and south, which gave southerners the right to vote for independence.

Leaders in Khartoum, the capital, deny they are arming militias in the south.

Some analysts believe the violence may be driven by rival southern political parties jockeying for control of the oil-rich region.

The latest violence pitted the Lou Nuer tribe against a Dinka village. Several thousand heavily armed raiders attacked Sunday morning, but the full extent of the casualties was not known until government officials were able to reach the village Monday.

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edmund.sanders @latimes.com

Ahmed is a special correspondent.

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