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JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - A tribal cattle raid this week left 47 dead in south Sudan, an army spokesman said, the latest in a cycle of fatal clashes between pastoralists.
Armed men from the Mundari ethnic group on Monday launched simultaneous attacks on two villages that belong to the Dinka Aliap tribe, part of the south's largest ethnic group, southern army spokesman Kuol Deim Kuol told Reuters on Wednesday.
There has been a sharp increase this year in tribal fighting that has killed almost 2,000 people, adding to tensions at a sensitive period for implementing the 2005 north-south peace deal.
Elections, a key part of the deal, are planned for April but southern officials in areas affected by the tribal fighting have said they think attendance may only be patchy because of insecurity and because thousands are still displaced.
"On the side of the Dinka 10 were killed and 16 wounded. From the side of the Mundari 37 bodies were found on the ground," Kuol said. "They (the Mundari) did not manage to take any cattle."
The two groups have a long and bloody history of tit-for-tat cattle raiding, he said. Many of the south's communities are armed, a legacy of more than 20 years of north-south war.
Registration for the elections, which the south's leading party has said has been slow and under-funded by Sudan's National Electoral Commission, has already been hindered by tribal fighting this month.
Kuol said the area in Awerial County in the south's Lakes State where the recent fighting took place was remote and it was not clear yet how registration there would be affected. War left the region with very little infrastructure.
The south's leading party has blamed at least some of the inter-tribal fighting on interference by Khartoum, which they say is arming civilians and militias to cause unrest ahead of the elections and a 2011 referendum for southerners on independence.
Others have said the blame should be partly put on rivalry between southern leaders, complicated by the long war that often pitched southern ethnic groups against each other.
Many southerners live in what the United Nations has called a security vacuum, without police and reliant on their armed youth. Some 2 million died in the north-south war exacerbated by religious and political differences between north and south.
(Reporting by Skye Wheeler)