“Ethiopian Defense Forces are taking measures”.
It was not the first time for the Murle armed men to carry out such attacks across the Ethiopian border.
Ethiopia’s Communications Minister Getachew Reda said that dozens of tribal people have also been abducted by the assailants.
The Murle, a tribe from South Sudan based in the eastern Jonglei region close to the Ethiopian border, often stage raids to steal cattle and abduct children but rarely on such a large or deadly scale.
Fighting broke out in December 2013 months after President Salva Kiir sacked his deputy Riek Machar as vice president, exacerbating a political dispute that reopened ethnic rifts between Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group and Machar’s Nuer.
Weapons were confiscated from the attackers, including grenade launchers, while government medics are giving medical services to civilians wounded in the fight, the agency said.
“They haven’t crossed the border [yet], but they will if that’s what it takes“, he told Al Jazeera.
Machar served as Kiir’s vice president after independence in 2011. Rebel groups can also move across Gambela region.
Gambella was also the scene of a bloody conflict earlier this year between Nuer and Anuak tribesmen, during which local security forces were accused of siding with their respective tribes.
He said tribal clashes in the region are not uncommon but what happened on Friday went too far.
“Some groups use abductions to weaken other groups, to adopt some of their children to look over the cattle or act as militiamen or be used as ransom”, he said. But eyewitnesses said the Friday attack was the first of its kind in decades due to the huge number of Murle forces involved and the number of the villages affected, in addition to the death toll.
The power-sharing plan is created to end more than two years of civil war that’s killed tens of thousands of people.