At least 1,000 people were killed in a single day during tribal clashes in the volatile nation of South Sudan, an official said Wednesday.

At least 370 others were wounded, some critically, when heavily armed men from the Murle ethnic group attacked six villages in Uror county in Jonglei state on Saturday, county commissioner John Dak Gatluak told dpa by telephone.

Among the dead were 230 women and children as well as 270 young men who had tried to defend their families and neighbours, according to the commissioner.

‘We have confirmed nearly 1,000 bodies,’ Gatluak said, adding that the death toll might rise further as the search continued for missing villagers who had fled into the bush to escape the attackers who were armed with rocket launchers and machine guns.

Earlier this week, when the clashes first became known, Gatluak had placed the death toll at 80 people.

Presidential spokesman Ateny Well Ateny told dpa that President Salvar Kiir condemned the violence.

Local authorities believe Saturday's attack was in revenge for a similar incident in February, when men from the Lou Nuer ethnic group had raided cattle and abducted children from the Murle.

Cattle raiding has occurred for centuries between ethnic groups in the East African nation, and children are sometimes abducted during raids to be used as domestic slaves.

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