More than 80 people were killed when rebels attacked cattle herders in Southern Sudan, while hundreds marched in the southern capital to protest at the unresolved status of a volatile border hotspot.
The governor of Warrap state said rebels loyal to a high-ranking commander who defected from the southern army in March attacked a village of cattle herders in the remote southern state on Sunday.
Nyandeng Malek said militia forces loyal to rebel leader Peter Gadet raided the village of Apuk with the aim of stealing cattle. "They didn't manage to take away cattle," she said.
Like many parts of vast, underdeveloped Southern Sudan, Warrap state is populated by well-armed but impoverished cattle herders, who kept their AK-47s from decades of civil war to protect themselves.
The fighting, which continued on Monday, killed more than 80 rebels and villagers, southern army spokesman Col Philip Aguer said.
Gadet's rebel group, one of at least seven movements who have declared their intent to overthrow the Juba-based southern government, also claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in oil-rich Unity state last month, where rebels burned huts and looted property.
The southern army's attempts to defeat the array of rebel forces operating across the nearly Texas-sized south have not been successful to date. The Sudan People's Liberation Army's counter-insurgency efforts against a rebel commander in Jonglei state in February left hundreds dead, most of them civilians.
This violence has cast a shadow over the optimism that followed the south's January independence vote, when southerners voted overwhelmingly to form their own nation.
Internal divisions within the south caused great bloodshed during Sudan's north-south civil war, which ended in 2005. Khartoum-backed southern militias razed villages in oil-producing areas and killed villagers allied with the southern liberation movement, which became the south's ruling party.
Meanwhile hundreds marched in Juba on Tuesday to protest against a decision by the government to remove the contentious border region of Abyei from the south's transitional constitution as Southern Sudan prepares for independence in July. Some waved banners reading: "There is no more compromise. Abyei is for Southern Sudan."