At least 20 people are reported to have been killed during a disarmament operation in the Tonj area of Warrap state on Saturday, August 8, when armed groups clashed with security forces. The fighting reportedly erupted in the Roljyang area on Saturday afternoon as South Sudan People's Defence Forces (SSPDF) personnel attempted to seize weapons from local community members, with security forces becoming engaged in a four-hour firefight after two civilians were shot dead in unclear circumstances. Hundreds of residents are reported to have fled the area following the clashes, while local community leaders accused the SSPDF of launching retaliatory operations on Sunday morning in which a number of properties were set alight and livestock killed. However, military officials have not yet commented on the allegations.
Further clashes and security operations are likely in Tonj and other areas of Warrap state in the near term.
Areas of South Sudan have long been plagued by communal violence, fuelled by tensions between the Dinka, Nuer, and Murle communities. However, cattle raiding attacks in the region have increased significantly in recent months, with hundreds being killed and thousands displaced in an escalating campaign of violence between rival herder communities. The government has launched several initiatives to prevent cattle raiding and retaliatory attacks, but tensions between communities remain high and the capability of security forces to intervene is severely limited.
The SSPDF launched disarmament operations in Warrap state in July in response to rising levels of communal violence. However, heavily armed communities in Tonj and some other areas of the state have resisted these efforts.
Due to the high threat of violent crime, rebel activity, and communal violence, all travel to South Sudan should be subject to a thorough localized threat assessment and undertaken in coordination with a trusted security provider. Travelers are advised to subject all travel, particularly to remote areas, to strict journey management protocols. Avoid travel at night, vary routines, and maintain a heightened sense of situational awareness. Monitor local media sources to remain apprised of security-related developments and adhere to any directives issued by local authorities.
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