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Southern Sudan Fighting in Jonglei State Killed 197

Fighting between Southern Sudan’s army and a rebel militia in Jonglei state last week killed 197 people, said Pagan Amum, the secretary-general of the region’s ruling party.

The clashes took place between Southern Sudan’s army and a militia loyal to renegade general George Athor, Amum told reporters today in Juba, the region’s capital. The fighting ended Feb. 10.

The government of oil-rich Southern Sudan, which is due to become independent in July, signed a cease-fire agreement with Athor’s forces on Jan. 5. Fighters loyal to Athor captured the town of Fangak in Jonglei on Feb. 9 and attacked an SPLA base, the army said last week. Almost 99 percent of Southern Sudanese voters chose independence last month in a referendum that was the centerpiece of a peace agreement ending a civil war with the north.

“We are a society that is traumatized, with a very high predominance of a culture of violence,” Amum said.

Athor, a former chief of staff in Southern Sudan’s army, took up arms against the government after losing a state election in April. Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir offered amnesty to Athor and his forces in October.

Almost 60 people were killed this month when some southern soldiers in the northern army in neighboring Upper Nile state mutinied after refusing orders to move to northern Sudan.

Southern Sudan accounts for about three quarters of Sudan’s 490,000 barrels of daily oil production. Sudan is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest producer, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

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