An attack on a village near the Sudan-South Sudan border has killed at least 15 people, according to officials in the disputed Abyei reigon.
Daniel Adekera, spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei, said UNIFSA counted 15 people dead following the attack on the village of Kolom, about 12 kilometers north of Abyei.
"The number we have confirmed by our troops is 15 people dead, 3 children missing, 25 wounded and 19 houses burnt down,” Adekera told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.
Adekera said Wednesday’s attack was likely a reprisal.
"From all indications the perpetrators are from the Misseriya tribe because three days ago there was a similar incident in the same place where three Misseriyas were killed, purportedly by the Dinka. So this seems to have been a reprisal attack from the Misseriya tribe,” Adekera told VOA.
Kuol Alor Kuol, chief administrator of Abyei, said a group of armed Misseriya men attacked Kolom on Wednesday. He put the casualty totals at 32 dead, including nine children, and 24 wounded.
Kuol said he had just returned from Kolom where he said the villagers buried the dead in one mass grave.
Misseriya leaders could not be reached for comment.
Adekera said the Misseriya and Dinka had been engaged in peaceful, face-to-face meetings ahead of the dry season migration period.
"The meetings were arranged to pre-empt escalation... or any incidence of violence, because normally during migration we hold these pre-migration meetings just to prepare them and get them to understand how they want to peaceful. So far meetings have been peaceful. So this has come to us as a surprise,” said Adekera.
UNISFA troops are deployed in the area to control the movements of armed actors and to try to contain any potential conflict before it arises.
In April, the organization’s peacekeeping chief told the U.N. Security Council that UNIFSA remains essential to the border regions between Sudan and South Sudan and proposed the creation of a civilian unit to support progress toward resolving who owns the disputed, oil-producing territory.
Abyei is inhabited by the Arab Misseriya tribe to the north and the Ngok Dinka to the south.
Carol Van Dam Falk contributed to this report.