Twelve civilians were killed in three days of fighting between pro- and anti-government forces in Duk County, in South Sudan's Jonglei state, more than two months after a peace agreement was signed for the young country, officials said Thursday.
"From the civilians, 12 people have been killed and 14 wounded," Duk County Commissioner Elijah Mocnom Wuor said, adding that those involved in the fighting were destroying villages and looting homes.
Mocnom said many civilians were caught in the midst of the fighting, making it likely that the death toll will continue to rise.
He said he, along with thousands of other local inhabitants, fled his home earlier this week when fighting broke out in the area.
Before the fighting began in mid-December, some 68,000 people lived in the area where the deadly fighting occurred, Mocnom said.
Now, most of them have fled for their lives, he said.
“People are now on the move. People are now on the run...There is no food at all and they are suffering on the road,” he said.
Even though a peace agreement was signed in January to send the fighting in South Sudan, Duk County has been the scene of several clashes this month alone between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and anti-government forces.
Opposition military spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang said the SPLA has attacked anti-government positions several times this week. While he did not mention civilian casualties in the fighting in Duk, Koang said rebel fighters killed 117 SPLA soldiers and seized weapons and ammunition.
"We captured 108 AK-47s, 37 PKM light machine guns and then we had one prisoner of war. We lost 10 soldiers on our side,” Koang said.
Sixty-seven opposition fighters were wounded in the fighting, Koang said.
SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer denied that 117 government soldiers were killed, and was unable to confirm the number of casualties on the civilian or rebel side.
Aguer said the SPLA is preparing a counter-offensive to take back parts of Duk County that are in rebel hands, but would not go into detail.
Mugume Davis Rwakaringi contributed to this article from Juba.