Armed youth, SSPDF clash in Lafon County

Armed youth suspected to be highway robbers on Tuesday afternoon clashed with an SSPDF unit in Loming Village in Lafon County in Eastern Equatoria State.

Armed youth suspected to be highway robbers on Tuesday afternoon clashed with an SSPDF unit in Loming Village in Lafon County in Eastern Equatoria State.

The suspected bandits are said to have been ambushing vehicles along the Torit-Kapoeta in an area called Okuma-Mafi (no government) and recently killed two travelers.

This prompted the state government to send the army to the area to flash out the criminals and secure the highway. However, the armed youth attacked the SSPDF unit and there was a brief exchange of fire before the youth fled to the bushes. No casualties were reported.

The army then confiscated and walked away with 68 head of cattle from nearby villages purportedly to compensate for the two people who were killed in a road ambush in the area last month.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Wednesday, Airu Jildo Marino, the Boma Chief of Loming Village, confirmed Tuesday’s clashes between the SSPDF and what he termed armed criminals in the area. He however said that some of the 68 head of cattle that were taken by the army belonged to innocent civilians.

“The government forces came to our village over the issue of two criminals who committed crimes but the all suspects ran away. They gathered all of us from the village and told us that they wanted the criminal so that they could arrest and take them to jail but the criminals were not there,” he explained. “We told them (the army) to allow us, including their families, to go and search for the criminals but we did not get them. After that, the army took 68 head of cattle from different kraals.”

Chief Marino said it was unfair for the army to take the cattle of innocent people just because they were attacked near their village.

“Some bandits attacked them and we just heard gunshots around the mountain and the attackers might be criminals who are fighting the government,” he said.

Meanwhile, Regina Ihere Alex, a lawmaker who represents the area in the state assembly, confirmed the incident and said it is the role of the government to check criminality.

“Just like they (the army) have gone to crack down on criminals who were disturbing people along the roads, they have gone to compensate the families of the people who were killed previously,” she said. “I do not have a right to ask why the government did that because it is the role of the government to come up with such (security) programs. The suspects ran away and the government talked to the community until cattle were brought to resolve the earlier problem (road killings).”

On his part, the state minister of local government and law enforcement agencies, Peter Lokeng Lotone, said security personnel will continue investigating suspected criminals until peace and stability prevail. He however disputed the number of cattle taken by the army in Loming.

“We did not bring 68 cattle, we brought 66 as compensation for the two deaths. There was a man from Lowoi who was killed last year and the relatives of the suspected killers are the ones who brought these cattle,” he explained. “Also, there was a girl who was killed by people from Loming killed and the relatives of the criminals who killed her are the ones who gave cattle for compensation.”