The death toll from a raid carried out by South Sudanese gunmen in western Ethiopia has risen to 208 people and the assailants kidnapped 108 children, according to Ethiopian officials.
The attack took place on Friday in the Horn of Africa nation's Gambela region which, alongside a neighboring province, hosts more than 284,000 South Sudanese refugees who fled conflict in their country.
Government spokesman Getachew Reda said on Sunday the number had risen to 208 people dead and 75 people wounded, up from a death toll of 140 a day earlier. The assailants also took 2,000 head of livestock, according to Getachew.
"Ethiopian Defence Forces are taking measures. They are closing in on the attackers," he said.
Getachew did not give further details, but officials in Gambela said on Saturday that Ethiopian troops had crossed the border in pursuit of the attackers.
Cross-border cattle raids have occurred in the same area in the past, often involving Murle tribesmen from South Sudan's Jonglei and Upper Nile regions — areas awash with weapons that share borders with Ethiopia.
Previous attacks, however, were smaller in scale. The Gambela region is home to many people from the Nuer ethnic group, which is largely centered in South Sudan. The gunmen are not believed to have links with South Sudanese government troops or rebel forces who fought the government in Juba in a civil war that ended with a peace deal signed last year.
South Sudanese officials were not immediately available for comment.
Under pressure from neighboring states, the United States, the United Nations, and other powers, South Sudan's feuding sides signed an initial peace deal in August and agreed to share out ministerial positions in January.
Rebel leader Riek Machar is set to return to Juba this week for the first time since he fled two years ago. After a delay, Machar is expected to land on Tuesday where he will be sworn in as the first vice-president under President Salva Kiir. More than 2 million people have died since the fighting began at the end of 2013, just two years after the country achieved independence from Sudan.
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