Tribesmen trying to steal cattle attacked a village in southern Sudan, sparking a conflict that killed 46 people, including seven soldiers, the U.N. said Monday.
The incident was the latest in a rising wave of tribal violence in the south that has killed more than 2,000 people, including many women and children, and displaced another 250,000, according to the U.N.
U.N. and local officials have expressed concerns that the violence could hamper preparations for national elections scheduled for next year, which are a key component of a deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between the north and south.
Dinka Bor tribesmen attacked a village of the rival Lou-Nuer tribe Friday night in Twic East County, leaving 46 people dead and 15 in critical condition, said Ashraf Eissa, a U.N. spokesman in Sudan. Such conflicts have been rising in the rainy season as resources such as cattle become scarce, he said.
A local official said over 24,000 civilians have fled the area in Jongeli state in fear of further attacks.
"The civilians in the area have been shocked by recent attacks, which claimed dozens of lives and injured scores in the country," county commissioner, Deim Ackol Deim, told the U.N.-funded Miraya radio station.
He said the attackers wore new military uniforms and were using new machine guns, but did not provide their identity.
The violence is separate from the six-year-old conflict between rebels and government forces in Darfur, the vast western region of Sudan.
Some southern officials have said they suspect northern political rivals of fueling tribal violence to hamper national elections or portray the southern government as unable to protect its people.
Despite the 2005 peace agreement that ended the civil and created a semiautonomous government in the south, significant distrust remains between the two sides. The south, battered by the war, is also flooded with guns.