Three women and two children, allegedly abducted from Pibor County in Jonglei state in an offensive by over 6,000 armed men from the Lou Nuer ethnic group against the Murle tribe in December and January, jave been recovered and are being returned to their families officials say.
Their release was negotiated by security agents in Jonglei, South Sudan's largest and often most volatile state.
Two of the women and their children were snatched in January during the Luo Nuer's revenge attack against the Murle. The third woman released had been kidnapped in 2009, according to officials and victims accounts.
Raids between the two groups are common with attacks in June and August 2011 killing over 1,000 people.
One the demands Luo Nuer made when they attacked Pibor County, the home of the Murle, was that the group return kidnapped women and children from previous raids.
The five are just a fraction of hundreds of women and children abducted in tribal conflicts in Jonglei state, which suffers from chronic under development and lack of infrastructure.
The Lou Nuer, Murle and Dinka Bor often engage in cattle rustling in Jonglei state but the situation has been aggravated by weapons leftover during the Sudanese civil war, which lasted two decades until a 2005 peace deal.
The Luo Nuer offensive and the Murle counter attacks over New Year displaced over 120,000 people, the UN say.
Jonglei state director for community security, Aguti Adut, said the women and their children were identified last week in Ayod and Akobo counties, both areas belonging to Lou Nuer. Adut said the local security service is conducting a survey using questionnaires in conflict affected areas to help identify victims of inter-tribal conflicts.
“We are moving to Pibor next week to carryout the survey there as well and if we get some children and women who are not Murle, we shall take them to their relatives,” Adut said today claiming that the Jonglei's government was supporting community based groups working with both communities in the state.
Sira John, who said she was taken from Pibor on 1 January with her boy said she learnt a lesson to tell to her relatives in Pibor.
“God helped me and I am going to ask my people in Pibor county to release children belonging to other tribes,” Sira as she tried to hold back her tears.