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South Sudan clashes kill 600, U.N. calls for talks

By Eszter Farkas, CNN
South Sudanese soldiers march with their national flag during a military parade to mark the country's independence in July.
South Sudanese soldiers march with their national flag during a military parade to mark the country's independence in July.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fighting in South Sudan reportedly left at least 600 dead, at least 750 wounded
  • Also at least 26,000 cattle stolen
  • 2,400 people died in 330 clashes across South Sudan, in first 6 months of 2011
  • Most of the clashes are over cattle rustling incidents
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(CNN) -- The U.N. on Monday called for reconciliation in the newly-established Republic of South Sudan after fighting reportedly left at least 600 dead and at least 26,000 cattle stolen.

The Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General, Hilde F. Johnson urged restraint Monday after fighting between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities in Jonglei State, killed at least 600 and left more than 750 wounded.

Clashes broke out early Thursday morning and lasted through the day, South Sudan authorities reported. The U.N. on Friday dispatched an assessment and verification team to two of the conflict areas.

The team found 28 casualties at one site and 30 at another along with a number of huts burned to the ground, said Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

The violence occurred when members of the Murle tribe attacked villages of the Lou Nuer, Siddique said.

Though the violence had largely stopped, reconciliation efforts were needed to maintain the peace, he said.

"Peaceful dialogue is the primary means for reconciliation, and the tribal leaders need to sit down and work out their differences."

Between January and the end of June 2011, nearly 2,400 people had died in 330 clashes across South Sudan, according to a July U.N. report. Most of these casualties resulted from cattle rustling incidents in Jonglei State's Pibor County.

Cattle rustling is a main source of insecurity in South Sudan as cows represent wealth and social status, and are used as "blood money" or compensation and payment of dowries. According to a 2009 report by the International Crisis Group, "Sticks and spears have historically been used to carry out rustling and the violent disputes it often causes. However, the proliferation of small arms ... changed the nature of this practice, making raiding far more deadly."

 
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