127 killed in South Sudan clash ‘over red scarf’

(XINHUA)At least 127 people were killed and 32 others injured following a deadly altercation between South Sudanese troops and local armed youth over a scarf in South Sudan’s Warrap State, officials and the military said on Tuesday.

It all began on Tuesday after the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces soldiers demanded that the youth surrender a red scarf they were holding, which in the troops’ eyes symbolised battle-readiness.

Gen Lul Ruai, the SSPDF spokesman, told the Nation that refusal to surrender the scarf triggered an exchange of words, then fire.

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“The armed youth refused to hand over the red scarf to the SSPDF soldiers,” he said.

The soldiers argued that wearing a red scarf symbolises someone in combat, and the ensuing quarrel led to the first killings that triggered retaliation from local armed youth.

According to Gen Ruai, the two days’ consecutive clashes left 45 SSPDF soldiers and 82 civilians dead.

A local administrator, Makuei Mabior, executive director of Tonj East County, said that the clashes broke out on Saturday because of a dispute over security screening.

“The shooting took place because one of the youth was ordered by the army and police officers to stop and be checked, but he fled and the security officers pursued him until they apprehended him. This invited his relatives to come to his rescue forcing the security officers to open fire on the civilians in the market,” Mr Mabior told Xinhua by phone in Tonj.

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The soldiers were part of the force undertaking a civilian disarmament exercise in a bid to curb frequent inter-tribal violence in the area.

Lul said the thirty-two SSPDF soldiers injured during the clashes were airlifted to the capital Juba and are currently receiving treatment at Juba Military Hospital.

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