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South Sudan clashes kill 28
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Feb 23, 2010 - 9:31:12 AM

South Sudan clashes kill 28

JUBA, Sudan At least 28 people have been killed in the latest outbreak of clashes in south Sudan?s Lakes state, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.

More than 35 civilians and soldiers were wounded in the clashes between tribes and which also pitted tribes against the military since Thursday in the state's Cueibet area, Major General Kuol Diem Kuol told AFP.

"On the side of the civilians, there were more than 21 killed in the clashes and more than 30 are wounded," said Kuol of the southern Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA).

"There are seven SPLA killed, including two officers, and seven wounded in action," he added.

Fighting began after the Gok Dinka people were attacked by rival Rek Dinka, with the Gok Dinka then trying to break into a weapons store in Cueibet to retrieve guns collected in a disarmament campaign, he said.

"It is a worrying matter that civilians should try to break into a military store," said Kuol. "The people are wanting the guns, but this is an action of anarchy."

The situation in Lakes state was mostly calm on Tuesday, Kuol added. "The area is under control, and a high-level delegation from the military and the state authorities have gone to resolve matters there."

Clashes between rival ethnic groups in south Sudan are common, often sparked by cattle rustling and disputes over natural resources. Others are in retaliation for previous attacks.

However, a string of recent raids has shocked many, with an apparent sharp increase in the number of attacks on women and children, as well as the targeting of homesteads.

In 2009, about 2,500 people were killed in southern Sudan -- a higher death toll than in the troubled western region of Darfur last year -- and more than 350,000 people fled their homes.

Tensions in the south have been on the rise ahead of elections, amid fears that the political contest could spark fresh violence between rival groups.

South Sudan is struggling to recover from its 22-year civil war with the north during which some two million people were killed, in a conflict fuelled by religion, ethnicity, ideology, resources and oil.

Despite a 2005 peace deal, tensions remain high between the mainly Muslim north and the grossly underdeveloped south, most of whose inhabitants are Christian or follow traditional beliefs.

Under the deal, Sudan's first multi-party election in 24 years is to be held in April, ahead of a referendum for the south's potential full independence slated for January 2011.

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