At least 15 people have been killed and several others injured during clan fighting in South Sudan, a government official and witnesses say.
The fighting, in the Kolynyang area of Jonglei state's Bor South county, began Wednesday and continued into Thursday, said witnesses who hid in the bush. State officials said they had dispatched soldiers to quell this latest episode in a series of clashes between rival communities.
"We have lost 15 people and eight people [were] wounded," the state's information minister, Akech Dengdit, told VOA's South Sudan in Focus program on Thursday.
Aguek Nhial, a witness who spoke with VOA by phone from Kolynyang, said he saw 15 bodies.
Nhial said a skirmish broke out around sunset Wednesday near the Nile River village of Majak, when herders moving their cattle "shot at goats on the other side of the river. When the owners of the goats went and looked at what happened, they just shot randomly, and that was the beginning of the fighting."
Some homes were set on fire, Nhial said, forcing villagers to flee to a nearby forest. "There are a lot of houses which are on fire now. … The situation I am in is just terrible."
Ayuen Panchol, another eyewitness, said Thursday that she and other neighbors remained in hiding. Her father was among those killed, she said.
The source of contention is a land dispute between two Bor clans. Tensions erupted in December, leaving 22 people dead and 18 others injured, Panchol said.
State authorities arrested roughly 30 people from both clans after the earlier clash, Dengdit said, noting soldiers and police were dispatched to stop the fighting Thursday.
"We cannot allow civilians to finish themselves, and that is why the organized forces have been taken there by the government of the state," Dengdit said. "All the ringleaders, youth leaders, chiefs and intellectuals we [know] have been involved before have been arrested."
He added that others were being sought in Bor and Juba.
Nhial urged the South Sudanese government to send in troops to disarm fighters in the area.
Dengdit said state authorities had submitted a plan to disarm civilians in Kolynyang but were waiting for the national government's approval.