- At least 40 people have been killed during an attack by gunmen from the Jikany Nuer ethnic group near the town of Nasir, in Sudan's eastern border with Ethiopia, on Friday.
The Sudan Tribune has reported that the ethnic group intercepted 27 barges of the World Food Programme convoy in the Upper Nile prompting a fierce retaliation by the South Sudan armed forces.
Reports said the fighters fought to keep supplies out of the hands of Lou Nuer groups, whose raiders had allegedly massacred 71 Jikany Nuer villagers at Tor Hech (Torkech) in May.
The supplies were reportedly heading to the town of Akobo when the attack took place but 16 were able to be saved and returned to Nasir. But it is unknown as what happened to the 11 of the barges, according to WFP.
WFP delivers the food supplies through the Nasir passage as Akobo roads are washed out and are impassable this time of year.
South Sudan army spokesman Malaak Ayuen Ajok said Jikany tribe demanded to search some of the barges, suspecting they were carrying arms and ammunition to the Lou community. "After searching one barge, they opened fire when the others continued downriver," local reports said.
Barges had been blockaded since May but were allowed to leave Nasir on Friday after high-level negotiations, but reports said the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA)-escorted convoy was attacked by Jikany fighters some 10 to 20 miles outside of the town.
According to the WFP director in South Sudan, Michelle Iseminger, women and elderly among the Lou Nuer are in need.
The food on the barges, some of which may have been looted, was destined for some 18,000 civilians displaced by earlier fighting, including when the Murle attacked Akobo County in May.
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