JUBA, Sudan, May 10 (Reuters) – More than 80 rebels and civilians were killed when insurgents attacked a camp in south Sudan, the army said on Tuesday, in the latest violence to mar preparations for the region’s independence.
In a separate incident, unknown attackers shot and wounded four Zambian U.N. peacekeepers in the contested Abyei region on Tuesday, another north/south flashpoint, the United Nations said.
People from Sudan’s oil-producing south overwhelmingly voted to secede in a referendum in January, promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north.
Celebrations over the independence vote have been marred by a wave of tribal violence and clashes between the south’s army and renegade militias.
Analysts warn that the underdeveloped south, due to split away in July, could become a failed state and destabilise the whole region if security deteriorates further.
Leaders from the south, where most follow Christian and traditional beliefs, have accused Khartoum of backing the rebels to disrupt the region and keep control of its oil.
The mostly Muslim north has dismissed this as have many of the militias who say they are rebelling against what they say is an autocratic government in the south.
Rebel militia fighters attacked a camp used by cattle herders in the south’s Warrap state on Sunday, southern army (SPLA) spokesman Philip Aguer told Reuters.
“We (the SPLA) forced this militia out of Unity state on the 6th and 7th (of May). They crossed into Warrap state and attacked a cattle camp and killed 34 civilians and wounded 45.”
“Later, civilians and police chased the militia into an ambush and killed 48 of them,” Aguer added.
Tribal or rebel violence has broken out in all but one of the south’s ten states this year, killing more than 1,000 people, according to the United Nations and army figures.
Aguer said there were also more clashes with militia in the south’s Unity state on Monday. He gave no casualty figures but said the army had seized heavy artillery, communication equipment, anti-tank mines and machine guns.
A rebel militia loyal to former SPLA officer Peter Gadet said it had fought the army in the area for several days.
“We were fighting with the SPLA this morning. It wasn’t much but yesterday it was very heavy…It has been going on for days,” the group’s spokesman Bol Gatkouth told Reuters.
The United Nations estimates at least seven separate militia are at war with the southern government.
North and south have yet to agree on a range of issues such as how they will divide oil revenues or who owns Abyei, a fertile, oil-producing region that straddles the border.
Attackers shot the Zambian peacekeepers in Goli north of Abyei town on Tuesday afternoon, said Hua Jiang, spokeswoman for the U.N. Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).
“One of them was seriously wounded, and all were evacuated to Abyei for treatment,” she said