The deadly attack occurred on Friday morning when heavily armed thousands of men, most of them reportedly in South Sudan’s military uniform, crossed into Ethiopia and simultaneously attacked about 10 different villages inhabited by the Nuer ethnic group in Ethiopia.
The attacked villages are inhabited by the Gaajaak-Nuer sections who are Ethiopian citizens.
At least 170 members of the Nuer ethnic group, mainly women and children, are feared killed, many others wounded and some children abducted.
At least 51 members of the Murle were also counted lying dead on the ground from the different villages.
Eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune that the dead were identified to be members of the Murle community.
“They are from Murle community. Their dead have been identified. They have killed a lot of people, about 170 now confirmed dead. Majority of the dead are women and children. They have also abducted a number of children. It was difficult to resist them because our populations have no guns. The Murle came heavily armed, some with RPGs and in military uniform of South Sudan,” said Chuol Gach, one of the survivors who witnessed the attacks.
“They attacked about 10 villages in Jekow and Nyinenyang woredas [counties],” he said.
Other sources also told Sudan Tribune that at least 51 members of the Murle attackers were killed, 16 in the early morning of the fighting and 35 others were later killed in the afternoon when they were trying to retreat with over 600 heads of cattle and fell into ambush from the Cie-Nyajaani sub-section.
Most of the heads of cattle were recovered, he said, and the attackers have been pursued back into South Sudan’s territory.
Gach blamed the authorities of Gambella regional government for not responding quickly with security forces to rescue the “unarmed civilians.”
It was not the first time for the Murle armed men to carry out such attacks across the Ethiopian border. But eyewitnesses said the Friday attack was the first of its kind in decades due to the huge number of Murle forces involved and the number of the villages affected, in addition to the death toll.