By Chondok Stephen Magei and Ruot George
Violent attacks perpetrated by armed youths have been raging on for over two weeks in the southern part of Unity State causing civilian deaths and displacement.
The youths have been on the warpath, burning down villages, overrunning opposition cantonment sites and killing people including at least an aid worker.
On Thursday, at least seven people were murdered and many villages burnt to ashes in Leer and Mayendit counties.
Eyes witnesses who escaped the marauding youths said many of the displaced people are seeking shelter in temporary bases manned by United Nations peacekeepers in Leer town.
Villages erased to ashes in Leer County reportedly include Luaal, Juoong, Kuiiny, Tieb, Both, Kur, Guat, Padeah, Gueny and Gandoor while in Mayendit are Rupkuay, Luogduel, Rupnor, Tutnyang and Luom.
On February 10, an aid worker was killed by crossfire during fighting in MirMir in Unity State, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, the Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan said in an emailed statement on Thursday.
“Additionally, a women and girls friendly centre was reportedly looted, a health and nutrition facility temporarily closed, and the access route to up to 500,000 people in need in Unity State has been jeopardized,” Nyanti said.
“Also in Unity State, on February 12, a clearly marked humanitarian vehicle came under fire on its way to a health facility, resulting in the grave injury of three health workers.”
Gatmai Kuony, who escaped the youths told Juba Echo by phone that he counted at least seven dead bodies when the attack occurred.
An SPLM-IO cantonment site was taken over by the youths last week when the soldiers fled ahead of the advent of the youths.
Varying information are being provided for the attacks from officials in the State and civilians.
The Director General at the Ministry of Information in Unity State, Deng Muon Liah said it was SPLM-IO and defected officers fighting each other.
“I communicated to Koch commissioner and Mayiandit county commissioner to cease the fighting,” Liah told Juba Echo.
“About 2000 people were displaced to Leer UN protection area and this is a result of looting. We condemn such fighting between SPLM-IO and defectors.”
Loktuor Gatluak who fled Gandoor accused the government for the attacks.
“We are now going to Leer temporary protection area for our safety because more than 4 civilians were wounded because of crossfire between youths and SPLM-IO,” Gatluak told Juba Echo by phone.
“Everything is now taken; we have no food, its better for us to seek for proper protection.”
When reached by phone on Thursday, SPLM-IO military officer in the area, Col Gattiek Thithar Riak accused government forces for the violence.
“Government is fighting us using armed youths as Kitwang group against SPLM-IO,” Riak told Juba Echo by phone.
The SSPDF division four spokesperson, Abot Wai Abot confirmed the attacks but denied the involvement of the army.
“At the beginning it was about the defection of some SPLM-IO military officers in Mirmir and in Mayendit, Rupkuai, but we will investigate what made armed youths to involve in the fight,” Abot told Juba Echo.
“I particularly condemn the fighting and the displacement of civilians in those areas. We will investigate.”