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UN and Ethiopia to probe deadly violence among Sudanese refugees

UN and Ethiopia to probe deadly violence among Sudanese refugees

Responding to deadly ethnic clashes among Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia, the United Nations and Ethiopian Government have agreed to set up a joint body to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told the press in Geneva today that the agency is also studying the possibility of shifting some tribal communities out of Fugnido to other sites in order to ease the long-simmering ethnic tensions in the region.

Those tensions erupted into large-scale violence last Wednesday, when gunmen from the minority ethnic Anuak tribe reportedly attacked a group of Dinka refugees, killing 33 persons - including 18 women, one of whom was six months pregnant - and leaving nine wounded.

Wednesday's massacre followed a shooting incident two days earlier that saw two refugees killed and 11 wounded during a dispute that involved Anuak and Dinka tribesmen arguing over control of the camp's Minority Refugee Committee, according to UNHCR.

The fighting reportedly mirrors tribal and political conflicts among members of the Ethiopian host community, while the refugees' affiliations with various factions of the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) are said to be fuelling the dispute.

Today, UNHCR representatives and the regional head of the agency's main partner, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), went to the Fugnido refugee camp to speak with residents in a bid to restore calm.

Some 200 refugees who fled the camp following the initial clashes last Wednesday remain inside the UNHCR-ARRA compound, Mr. Janowski said. Fugnido camp currently houses 28,700 refugees, making it the largest of the five regional camps accommodating a total of more than 85,000 Sudanese refugees.

Tensions among ethnic groups in the refugee camp have increased since June, when 27 Nuer tribesmen were killed in one attack, UNHCR said. In late October, 13 refugees, including 11 women, were surrounded and stripped of their clothing by a group of Surma refugees while collecting firewood just outside of Fugnido.

In a separate development today, Mr. Janowski voiced UNHCR's "sorrow and shock" over the news of a landmine explosion in Angola that killed seven people and injured six, most of them local medical staff from the non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières.