[QODLink]
Africa
Gunfight at S Sudan peace talks kills dozens
As many as 37 people killed when fight breaks out at UN-brokered negotiations meant to solve disputes over cattle theft.
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2012 19:41

Dozens of people have been killed in South Sudan during a shootout that broke out at a peace meeting meant to resolve disputes about stolen cattle, according to local officials.

Up to 37 people died in the northern Unity state after gunmen, reportedly including members of security forces, opened fire on the crowd involved in the United Nations-sponsored talks between local leaders, officials said on Friday.

"These guys just started shooting everywhere," said Gideon Gatpan Thoar, Unity state information minister.

Local officials from Unity and the neighbouring Lakes and Warrap states were taken by the UN for talks to the remote town of Mayendit in Unity after a spate of cattle raids, including a brutal attack last week that killed 79 people.

"The fight just started there and no one knew the cause," said Chol Tong Mayay, Lakes state governor, after gathering accounts from witnesses. "People were just shooting at each other, without knowing whose police and army they were."

 

The assailants, reportedly including rival bodyguards, police, army as well as armed government wildlife officers, sprayed the meeting room with bullets in the battle. The exact cause for the fight is not known.

Mayay said 22 people from Lakes state were killed and 24 wounded, but he did not know how many were killed from the two other states.

South Sudan, which declared independence from its former civil war enemy to the north in July, is reeling from multiple crises, including ethnic clashes, violent cattle raids and rebel attacks.

UN peacekeepers confirmed the fighting, but could not say how many had died. They said the gunfight erupted after one official interrupted the meeting and shouted at his counterpart.

"Four pick-up trucks carrying armed men believed to be SPLA [army] and SSPS [police] then appeared and started shooting indiscriminately at the Mayendit County Commissioner's compound," the United Nations said.

At least 15 people with gunshot wounds had been taken to a clinic in Unity state run by the Doctors Without Borders, the medical aid agency said.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Featured
Led by students concerned for their future with 'nothing to lose', it remains to be seen who will blink first.
Taipei has sided with Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters as relations with Beijing continue downward spiral.
Some say they've 'lost everything' after a toxic spill in August, which was followed by leaks caused by heavy rain.
Many orphanages ignore government orders or operate under the radar, and there are only four inspectors nationwide.
Palestinian citizens of Israel are blocked from living in Jewish communities for lacking 'Zionist vision'.