By Rohan Ahluwalia
Armed men from South Sudan have killed around 140 people, including women and children, and kidnapped a number of others in a cross-border raid in Ethiopia last Friday, April 15, according to the Ethiopian government, the African news website TesfaNews.net reported.
The perpetrators from South Sudan were part of the Murle tribe, according to the Daily Telegraph. The tribe is based in the western South Sudanese state of Jonglei and often raids Ethiopia to steal cattle.
“The attackers came from South Sudan and killed civilians, including women and children,” minister of communications Getachew Reda told the Associated Press.
“The Ethiopian defense force is currently chasing after the perpetrators. Our defense forces have so far killed 60 members of the attackers.”
Reda also added, according to The New York Times, that the attackers did not have links to South Sudan’s government or its rebel fighters and that Ethiopian forces might cross into South Sudan to pursue the gunmen.
The attack took place in Jakawa, a village in the Gambela region of Ethiopia, according to Reda.
A number of children were abducted and taken into South Sudan, he told The New York Times.
Gambela, the region that is approximately 30 miles from the South Sudanese border, is home to the Nuer, one of the two main ethnic groups within the country. The Gambela region is also the home of thousands of refugees from South Sudan who fled the country after war broke out there in December 2013. It is also the home of armed and dangerous Ethiopian and South Sudanese groups that attack government installations and soldiers, according to the New York Times.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Ethiopian “forces have been in pursuit of the attackers and they decimated scores of them,” Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Tewolde Muluteg said, according to the Telegraph.
Muluteg would not say, however, whether or not the Ethiopian forces have crossed the South Sudan and Ethiopia border, according to TesfaNews.
“I have no details on this. This is a developing situation,” Muluteg said. “In border areas, cattle frauds and raids are not uncommon. Of course, something of this magnitude is different.”
Many of these raids have occurred in the Gambela region since South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011, the Daily Telegraph reported. Since its independence in 2013, the country went to war and thus set off a cycle of retaliatory killings that sliced the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.
The Daily Telegraph reported that more than 150,000 South Sudanese people have fled their homes due to the violence that has occurred in the country and over 2 million people have been displaced since the war began.
Ethiopia has been heavily involved in the South Sudan peace process over the last year, according to the Daily Telegraph, due to the risk that the conflict in South Sudan could destabilize Gambela further and cause more raids and cross-border attacks.