"They had been harmless youngsters," says the archbishop of murders in South Sudan

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The Catholic Archbishop of Juba "strongly condemned" the murder of three young girls who were killed on television in their home in Juba.

The girls, ages 9, 7 and 4, were the children of Edward Jami Andrea, a lecturer at Upper Nile University in the capital. The children were alone in the house on August 1st while their mother was at the market.

"I don't know if it was revenge or ritual killings, but they were innocent children who have just decided to commit suicide," Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Mulla told Torit Catholic News Service where he is on a pastoral visit. "I am very shocked and saddened by death."

In a statement, Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio described the murders as "really heartbreaking."

"What monstrous cowards can sneak up on defenseless children and slaughter them in their house?" he asked, saying he had joined all of South Sudan to condemn the murders.

"We, the peace-loving people in South Sudan, must be united … in the face of those who would use violence and intimidation," said Bishop Kussala.

Although South Sudan has experienced violence and insecurity for years, this incident has united the entire nation in sentencing.

On August 3, President Salva Kiir said he was shocked and saddened by the heartless killings and was calling for the murderers to be arrested quickly.

"I would like to express my condolences to the parents of the children and all South Sudanese who are concerned with the extent of this crime," said Kiir. "The pain and trauma inflicted on us by the perpetrators is enormous, but we as the country will prevail."

The girls' death came when the country mourned another 23 people killed in an Anglican church in eastern Jonglei. The two separate incidents underscored the continuing insecurity in the country.

Most of the dead who attacked the church in Makol Cuel village in early August were women and children. Numerous children were also kidnapped and more than 500 cattle were ambushed.

Jonglei is the home of Dinka, Nuer and Murle, three shepherd communities that mutually attack cattle and fight for pasture and access to the Nile. The raids have recently become more militarized as the communities purchased military-grade weapons. Children are often kidnapped in the raids.

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