Local officials say suspected nomadic Misseriya herders from Sudan attacked a village in the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei leaving 24 people wounded and abducting 15 others.
At least 32 people were killed on Wednesday when suspected nomadic Misseriya herders from Sudan attacked a village in the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei along the border of South Sudan, a local official said.
"Thirty-two people were killed among them children and women, and secondly about 24 people are wounded ... about 15 people including children were abducted and 20 houses burned," Kuol Alor Kuol, the chief administrator of the Abyei area, told AFP news agency.
The status of Abyei was supposed to have been resolved via referendum after a 2005 peace deal that preceded South Sudan's 2011 secession from Sudan, but the vote has never been held.
The area, which has oil reserves, is populated by the Ngor Dinka ethnic community and the Arab Misseriya, who usually foray from Sudan into South Sudan with their animals for grazing.
Villagers 'preparing mass graves'
Wednesday's attack unfolded at 7 am local time, said Kuol, when the tribesmen stormed the Dinka village of Kolom near Abyei town and set some of its dwellings ablaze.
"Bodies got burnt and you cannot recognise them," Kuol said.
It was not immediately clear whether all the dead died in burning homes. Kuol said another 18 villagers were wounded in the assault before the tribesmen withdrew.
"The situation at the moment is calm and the (Abyei-area) residents ... have all gone back. They are now preparing mass graves for the victims," he said.
The attackers probably aimed to drive locals out of the remote, poorly governed area to enhance their access to grazing resources, Kuol said.
There was no immediate comment from the Misseriya.
Oil-producing South Sudan plunged into civil war two years after its 2011 independence when President Salva Kiir sacked former rebel leader Riek Machar as vice president.
After five years of fighting, Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal but they are still struggling to form a unity government.
The conflict killed an estimated 400,000 people, triggered a famine and created Africa's biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.