UPDATE: Death toll from South Sudan clashes rises to 127, military says

FILE PHOTO: A South Sudanese soldier holds a gun. AFP PHOTO

The death toll from deadly clashes between civilians and government forces in the northern Tonj area of Warrap state in South Sudan rose to 127, the South Sudan military said on Wednesday.

According to the military spokesman, Lul Ruai Koang, 82 civilians and 45 soldiers were killed in the clashes. Koang clarified that the number of deceased officers was revised down from 55 to 45.

More than 30 soldiers who were injured in the clashes were airlifted to the capital Juba, the East African reported.

A local official said that the violence broke out on Saturday when a young man was arrested after he failed to obey an order by security forces to stop and be checked. Makuei Mabior, an executive director of Tonj East County, said that the man’s relatives then came to his rescue forcing the security officers to open fire on the civilians in the market.

Mabior said that some youth had returned after fleeing into the bushes, while others, who were still armed, had not. Mabior added that the death toll may increase as many injured people may not access health facilities, which were either looted or destroyed in the clashes.

Koang noted that the fear of arrest or disarmament and personal safety was likely still stopping some of the youth from returning.

“The situation was brought under control. Disarmament will continue because it was not the cause of the violence,” Koang said.

Frequent inter-tribal clashes in the region prompted the South Sudanese government to conduct a civilian disarmament exercise.