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South Sudan Declares Humanitarian Disaster in Tribal Clash Area

A handout picture released by the UN on January 5, 2012 shows internally displaced persons resting in Pibor, Jonglei state after fleeing the surrounding areas following a wave of bloody ethnic violence.

South Sudan has declared a humanitarian disaster in the state of Jonglei, the site of deadly tribal clashes last week.

A government spokesman says South Sudan's council of ministers declared the disaster at a special meeting Wednesday, and asked international relief agencies to quickly deliver aid to the state.

A group of 6,000 fighters from the Lou Nuer tribe attacked the towns of Lukangol and Pibor last week, setting fire to huts and prompting tens of thousands of civilians to flee. Pibor is home to the Murle tribe, which was blamed for attacks on Lou Nuer areas in August.

The U.N. peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, said Thursday that peacekeepers in the area have seen "several dozen bodies."

South Sudan's government says its forces have asserted control of Pibor. It says it will try to arrange reconciliation talks between the tribes.

The government is also directing the tribes to return kidnapped women and children to their home communities.

The United Nations says communal violence in Jonglei state killed more than 1,100 people during 2011 and displaced more than 60,000 others.

South Sudan has been plagued with tribal and militia violence since becoming independent from Sudan in July.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.