Five people were killed and seven wounded, including a minister in the south Sudan regional government, when a gunbattle erupted between rival ethnic groups, officials said on Monday.
Gunmen ambushed the convoy of the south?s agriculture and forestry minister Samson Kwaje on Sunday, as he drove in Lainya county in Central Equatoria state, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of the regional capital Juba.
"Five people were killed and seven wounded, including the minister, who was shot in his right arm," said Major General Kuol Deim Kuol, spokesman for the southern former rebel Sudan People?s Liberation Army (SPLA).
"The reason lies in a dispute between different ethnic groups, who are arguing as to which areas lie in different counties," Kuol said.
The attackers also burned two vehicles in the minister's convoy but extra troops have now been deployed and have secured the area, Kuol added.
Kwaje, who comes from the area of the attack, looked tired and wore his arm in a sling beneath his shirt but otherwise appeared in good health as he arrived at Juba airport by helictoper on Monday.
"This act is uncalled for, and on behalf of the government of southern Sudan we condemn it," regional internal affairs minister Gier Chuang told reporters.
"It is unfortunate that we tend to use violence to address some of the misunderstandings that arise between us as leaders or as communities," Chuang added.
The attack comes as Sudanese register for the first presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 24 years, a key part of the 2005 peace deal that ended the country's two-decade-long civil war.
Many in the south however appear more focussed on a promised referendum on independence scheduled for January 2011.
"I call upon communities to address this issue responsibly, so that our people are not lost in the process of achieving the very objective in which we have lost millions of people," Chuang said.
Registration for the elections has been slow, with the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement appealing for the 30-day period to be extended.
Logistics are difficult in the remote and underdeveloped south, which has suffered a rash of ethnic violence this year.
More than 2,000 people have died and 250,000 been displaced in the clashes, according to the United Nations, which says the rate of violent deaths now surpasses that in Sudan's war-torn western region of Darfur.
The UN has warned that poor rains and food insecurity could spark further unrest, with tensions rising as pastoralist cattle herders move their livestock into areas controlled by rival groups.
Source: AFP Global Edition