By Cyrus Ombati

Kenya: Four Kenyans are among 12 people shot dead by gunmen who attacked a United Nations convoy in South Sudan on Tuesday.

Five Indian peacekeepers were also killed when some 200 attackers – armed with rocket-propelled grenades – ambushed the convoy in the troubled eastern region of Jonglei.

Officials said two South Sudanese working for the UN and a compatriot working alongside the Kenyans for a water drilling company were also killed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said the attack could constitute a war crime.

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The eastern state of Jonglei has been the scene of widespread ethnic conflict since South Sudan became independent in July 2011, with bloody battles between rival tribes, including the Dinka, Lou Nuer and Murle people.

Amid renewed clashes between ethnic groups and government forces, UN troops have recently bolstered troop numbers in the region and stepped up patrols.

An Indian soldier was shot and wounded in Jonglei in March amid high tensions about an imminent government crackdown on rebels, while the army shot down a UN helicopter in December by mistake, killing all four Russians on board.

The UN originally said some staff remained unaccounted for, but all were later found.

Much of the trouble has been in Pibor county, where the UN peacekeeping force is based.

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Bloody clashes between the army and a former theology scholar turned rebel called David Yau Yau from the Murle people have devastated large parts of this troubled region.

At the end of 2011, barely six months after South Sudan declared independence after decades of civil war with the north, some 8,000 armed Lou Nuer youths rampaged through Pibor County, vowing to exterminate their cattle-keeping rivals, the Murle.

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South Sudan United Nation ambush