21 killed in cattle raid in Southern Sudan; dowries of '100 cows or more' blamed

JUBA, Sudan (AP) — A cattle raid in Southern Sudan possibly sparked by the region's high bride price — 100 cows or more — left 21 people dead, an official said Wednesday.

Cattle raiders had attempted to steal hundreds of cattle from a camp in Southern Sudan's Yirol East region, but 20 raiders were killed during the attempt by the tribe they were attacking, said Maj. Gen. Kuol Deim Kuol, a spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

One person from the raided community was killed during Monday's attack, he said.

Local officials requested security assistance from the army and police, intervention that calmed the situation, he said.

Kuol said the raid and deaths were "purely a criminal issue" and not two tribes fighting each other. He said the violence was a mostly economic problem and he cited the high dowry price in the region of 100 cows or more as one of the cause of frequent cattle raids.

Last year, inter-communal violence in Southern Sudan killed an estimated 2,500 people and displaced more than 350,000, according to the United Nations Mission in Sudan. Violence has been less deadly this year but has often been linked to the southern army's attempt to disarm civilians across the south.

A civil war lasting more than two decades was fought across Southern Sudan and was ended in 2005. More than 2 million people were killed in the war.

In January, oil-rich Southern Sudan votes on a referendum that is widely expected to see the region secede from the Khartoum-led north.