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Tue, 03 Jan 2012 11:49 - Updated Tue, 03 Jan 2012 11:49

South Sudan flashpoint town under government control

Juba

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Juba - South Sudan's army is in "full control" of a flashpoint town, after thousands
of villagers fled into the bush to escape a marauding militia army from a rival tribe, officials said Tuesday.

A column of some 6,000 armed youths from the Lou Nuer tribe marched on the remote town
of Pibor in troubled Jonglei state, home to the rival Murle people, who they blame for cattle
raiding and have vowed to exterminate.

"Pibor is under the full control of the government, and the Lou Nuer have been ordered to
return to their homes, and they are starting to do so," Information Minister Barnaba Marial
Benjamin said.

Gunmen burned thatched huts and looted a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the
worst flare-up in a dispute that has left more than 1,000 dead in recent months and threatened to destabilise the world's newest country.

The government and the United Nations which has warned the violence could lead to a "major  tragedy" were beefing up their forces in the area.

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, said "probably well over
twenty thousand" people had fled into the bush.

Ethnic violence, cattle raids and reprisal attacks in the vast eastern state left over 1,100 people dead and forced some 63,000 from their homes last year, according to UN reports based on local authorities and assessment teams.