JUBA (ST) – THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD Newspaper 22 April 2016: The South Sudanese government Wednesday said it agreed to launch a joint military offensive with Ethiopia to dislodge and bring to justice ethnic Murle militia fighters who crossed into Ethiopia last Friday and massacred over 200 civilians of the ethnic Nuer community of Gambella state.
In a press conference Wednesday, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Peter Bashir Gbandi said that preparations were underway for the joint military operations to free up to 108 children abducted by the ethnic Murle during the attacks.
About 13 villages of the ethnic Nuer of Jekou and Nyinenyang counties of Ethiopia were simultaneously attacked by thousands of heavily armed Murle fighters, killing 208 unarmed civilians, wounding 80 of them, abducting 108 children and taking away over 2,000 heads of cattle, according to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn.
Some of the attackers were wearing South Sudan army uniforms, but Ethiopia said both the government of President Salva Kiir and the armed opposition faction of Riek Machaar had no hand in the attacks.
The Ethiopian parliament on Tuesday declared a two-day national mourning for the victims, starting on Wednesday and ending on Thursday.
Prime Minister Hailemariam called on President Salva Kiir to cooperate and allow the Ethiopian troops to cross into South Sudan’s Murle territories and hunt down the perpetrators and free the children.
He also called on the government to have a joint military operation with the Ethiopian forces and pinpoint the locations of the perpetrators whom the Ethiopian Premier described as “primitive and destructive force.” He vowed to protect the Ethiopian citizens in Gambella state and to ensure that such a cross border attack will not occur again in the future.
The African Union also released a statement on Tuesday, condemning the attack on the Ethiopian ethnic Nuer community and expressed support for a military action to contain the marauding “criminals.”
Ethiopia has announced that some of its forces had already moved to the South Sudanese border where they pursued the attackers and killed 60 of them.
The operations may involve the use of helicopter gunships.