South Sudan rebel clash death toll tops 200

Juba (Sudan), Feb 15 (AFP) More than 200 people diedin a rebel attack in south Sudan''s troubled Jonglei state lastweek, a senior southern official said today, nearly double anearlier death toll.

"We counted 201 casualties. I sadly helped toparticipate in burying some of the bodies," Stephen Kuol,Jonglei''s state minister for education, told AFP.

Kuol had just returned from a government assessmentmission to Fangak county in northern Jonglei, where thefighting took place.

The secretary general of the south''s ruling party gavea similar casualty figure earlier today.

"We lost 197 of our people in Fangak county as aresult of a heinous attack by George Athor''s forces on adefenceless civilian population," said Pagan Amum, secretarygeneral of the ex-rebel Sudan People''s Liberation Movement(SPLM). "It was a massacre of our people."

Last Wednesday, troops loyal to renegade southerngeneral Athor attacked soldiers in the south''s Sudan People''sLiberation Army, shattering a "permanent ceasefire" theysigned just last month.

Southern army spokesman Philip Aguer also confirmedthat the death toll had risen, adding there had been no newclashes since fighting ended last Thursday.

"The numbers have risen from what was initiallyreported," said Aguer, who did not have exact figures. "Therewere many civilians killed in the fighting who we were notinitially aware of."

The attacks came just days after the formalconfirmation of the results of the January 9-15 referendum onsouthern independence, in which almost 99 percent ofsoutherners voted to secede from the north and split Africa''slargest country in two. (AFP) RCJ

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