At least 105 people have been killed in violence between government forces and rebel militias in Southern Sudan in the last week, an official said Sunday, raising concerns of southern instability ahead of the region's independence declaration in July.
Brig. Gen. Malaak Ayuen, head of the Southern Sudan's Army Information Department, said that fighting Saturday between a group of rebels led by Maj. Gen. Gabriel Tanginye in Jonglei state and southern government forces led to 57 people being killed and scores being wounded.
Ayuen said that five days of fighting between government forces and those loyal to another rebel chief, Peter Gatdet, in Unity state, northwest of Jonglei, led to the deaths of 48 people. He did not give a breakdown of the number of civilians, rebels and soldiers killed in the two incidents.
Since its January independence referendum, Southern Sudan has seen a wave of violence that has killed hundreds.
The south voted nearly unanimously to secede from the north, but there are many issues that remain unaddressed, including the sharing of oil revenues, the status of southerner and northerner minorities living on both sides of the border, and who controls the disputed border region of Abyei, a fertile area near large oil fields.
Southern officials now say the militia groups they have been fighting are being funded by the north to cause instability with the goal of taking over the oil fields in the south.
Before this week's violence, the United Nations said that at least 800 people had been killed and 94,000 displaced because of violence in Southern Sudan this year.
The fresh clashes between Tanginye's forces and the army erupted Saturday morning in Kaldak village north of Jonglei state, where his forces have been assembled for reintegration into the Sudan People's Liberation Army, poised to become Southern Sudan's regular force in July.
Tanginye said his base was attacked by the southern army because he refused to disarm his forces ahead of the reintegration process, an allegation the army has called a "lie."