Abyei villagers blame Sudan-backed nomadic Arab tribesmen for attack that killed at least 32 and say peacekeepers told them to stay in their homes.

Last weekend, a local cattle farmer in the contested region of Abyei, between Sudan and South Sudan, clashed with an armed group of nomadic tribesmen on motorbikes.

Such clashes occur regularly. Raiders from the Arab Misseriya tribe attack ethnic Dinka villages and sometimes abduct women and children. The villagers fight back.

But the killing of at least 32 people in the Dinka village of Kolom on Wednesday morning in a suspected Misseriya attack was on a scale far greater than any clash in recent memory, villagers and local officials told Middle East Eye.

Visiting Kolom just four hours after the attack, MEE found huts still burning with some containing the charred remains of their occupants. Elsewhere villagers were digging mass graves for the victims and preparing for funerals.

Many expressed anger at the failure of the local United Nations peacekeeping force to protect them.

Survivors said they had asked UN peacekeepers on Tuesday whether they should hide in the bush to avert a massacre. They said the peacekeepers advised them to remain in the village because they could not guarantee their safety if they fled.

Villagers told MEE that the raid started at about 7.15 am local time when men armed with assault rifles attacked the unguarded village.

When they departed about an hour later, at least 32 villagers were dead, including eight children, according to local officials.

Fifteen children were abducted and more than 20 people were injured. Twenty-two of the village’s huts had been burnt down, some with people inside. Their charred bodies lay in plain view. The clinic and the church were destroyed.

In Khartoum, Sudan’s transitional government said that at least 29 people had been killed and condemned the massacre, also accusing UN peacekeepers of failing to protect civilians. It also said it had dismissed its senior official in the region, Salih Saloha.

A United Nations peacekeeping force known as UNISFA was deployed in Abyei in June 2011, weeks before South Sudan declared independence from Sudan with the status of the disputed border region unresolved.

SOURCE: Middle East Eye