GARBO, Sudan, Oct 28: Unknown armed men attacked a south Sudan village killing five people, the latest in a spate of assaults terrorising villagers and hampering humanitarian aid access to one of the poorest areas on earth.
Almost daily attacks have shocked residents around southern Sudan's capital Juba over the past 10 days, including four last week which claimed 38 lives. Thursday's attack was on Garbo village, which faces Juba on the Nile.
The former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), now the official southern army, arrested 15 members of the northern Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) on October 19 suspected of carrying out earlier strikes.
The 15, seen by Reuters, are mostly southern soldiers from SAF with one from the western Darfur region. They had SAF identification numbers and wore green khaki military uniforms.
Despite the arrests, attacks have continued.
The United Nations in Juba says it is not clear who is behind the attacks. During two decades of civil war that ended in January 2005, arms were freely available to all in the south.
On Thursday night, heavy gunfire and artillery wailed so close to Juba that businessmen and aid workers hurriedly left their dining tables on the banks of the Nile to take cover.
In Garbo, residents are convinced the Ugandan rebel Lord's esistance Army (LRA) were responsible for Thursday's attack.
''They were not speaking Arabic or English, but another language I think Swahili,'' said Justinta Kgeji, whose husband was killed in the attack. ''These were the Tonga Tonga (LRA).'' But she added one of the attackers did speak a local form of Arabic. Swahili is commonly spoken across neighbouring Uganda.
Kgeji said they wanted her money and stole her husband's military fatigues. He was a soldier.
UGANDAN PEACE TALKS
Across the Nile from Garbo a, Juba is hosting peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA, who sought refuge in war-torn southern Sudan until last year's peace deal ushered in an era of peace and some return of law and order to the south. The SPLA then transformed into a political movement, took control of the autonomous southern government and is mediating the Ugandan talks. They hope an LRA peace deal will end the attacks on southern Sudanese by the feared Ugandan rebels known for mutilating their victims and enslaving women and children.
The LRA have displaced 1.7 million in northern Uganda and killed tens of thousands over two decades. Led by the mystical Joseph Kony who wants to rule Uganda according to the Biblical Ten Commandments, their political demands are unclear.
Uganda accuses the northern Khartoum government of supporting the LRA and Khartoum says Kampala armed the SPLA during the Sudanese civil war. The wave of attacks is putting pressure on the peace talks, already on shaky ground over renewing a cessation of hostilities.
The arrest of SAF soldiers in the south is also another sign of the fragility of the Sudanese peace, already pressured by disputes over Sudan's 330,000 barrels per day of crude and the north-south border.
A commercial convoy was ambushed by armed men who burned its two trucks this week and a U.N. vehicle came under fire.
The attacks have closed some of the main roads out of Juba hindering humanitarian traffic and the repatriation of refugees.
The United Nations, with the world's third-largest peacekeeping force in Sudan, is trying to help some four million people displaced during two decades of war to return home.
But Garbo's residents are again on the move. Women were packing their clothes to leave the village after Thursday's attack. ''They are no longer going to stay here, they are moving to Juba,'' said Viola John, a relative of one of the victims.
''They are scared.'' Yesterday women and men were sobbing and burying the dead bodies wrapped in white muslin.