Major-General James Hoth, a senior SPLA commander, put the number of those killed among the tribe at 69. He said six SPLA troops were killed and 26 were wounded.
 
Edward Lino, a representative for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the political wing of the SPLA which rules the south, said last week's attack, in which one tribesman was killed, did not justify the retaliation.
 
Border worries
 
Tensions have increased in Sundan's border region over the failure of the ruling National Congress party in the north and the SPLM to reach a deal on the demarcation of the borders of Abyei, the source of much of Sudan's energy reserves.
 
Abyei's status was left unresolved in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended two decades of civil war between Sudan's north and the south in 2005.
 
Many in the border area are readying for further conflict as the delayed demarcation of the contentious north and south border could complicate a national census, due in April.
 
"In some areas, administration is divided between north and south," Isaiah Chol Aruai, chairman of the Southern Sudan Commission for Census, Statistics and Evaluation, said.
 
"There could be conflict."
 
He gave an example of the town of Renk, which the semi-autonomous southern government considers part of its territories while northerners living there are demanding to be counted as living in the north.
 
The census is considered vital for the success of Sudan's elections in 2009, the first democratic elections in 23 years, which follow a peace agreement in 2005 between the country's two halves.
 
Prior to the peace agreement, Sudan's north-south conflict claimed two million lives and displaced about four million people.