At least 118 people have been killed in clashes between armed civilians and government forces carrying out a disarmament exercise in the northern Tonj area of Warrap state in South Sudan, officials said on Tuesday.
Makuei Mabior, executive director of Tonj East County, said that the clashes broke out on Saturday when an argument erupted between the security forces and a young man, resulting in clashes.
“The shooting took place because one of the youth was ordered by the army and police officers to stop and be checked, but he fled and the security officers pursued him until they apprehended him. This invited his relatives to come to his rescue forcing the security officers to open fire on the civilians in the market,” Mabior told Xinhua by phone in Tonj.
“We confirmed 34 soldiers dead and 84 civilians killed,” he added.
Mabior disclosed that the death toll could rise because several civilians wounded in the clashes are unable to access treatment due to the looting and destruction of health facilities.
He said several civilians are still hiding in the bushes for their safety. The soldiers were part of the disarmament force undertaking civilian disarmament exercise in a bid to curb frequent inter-tribal violence in the area.
However, military spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang confirmed that 55 security forces were killed in the clashes while the wounded have been hospitalized. He did not reveal the number of civilians killed in the clashes.