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Sudan: Abyei ethnic clashes mar peace deal
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Feb 28, 2011 - 5:42:21 AM

Sudan: Abyei ethnic clashes mar peace deal

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At least 10 people have been killed in fighting between rival ethnic groups in Sudan's disputed oil-producing region of Abyei, officials say

The clashes between Arab nomads and the southern Dinka Ngok people are the first since a deal between the two sides was agreed last month.

Abyei lies on the border between north and south Sudan.

The region did not take part in last month's referendum in which southerners voted to split from the north.

'Fighting continuing'

Abyei is due to vote on whether to join the north or south at a later, unspecified date.

The Dinka Ngok think it belongs in the south, while the nomadic Arab Misseriya see it as northern.

The heart of their dispute is about grazing rights for cattle, which are central to both communities' traditions and economies.

Both sides accused each other of starting the recent clashes.

Sudanese Al-Amer Mokhtar Papo (right) a leader of the Misseriya Arab tribe and his counterpart from the Dinka Ngok tribe, Sultan Qoual Dinq Qoual raise their hands after signing a peace agreement in the town of Kadugli north of Abyei on 13 January 2011 The Dinka Ngok and Misseriya groups signed a deal last month to end the violence.

Deng Arop Kuol, the chief administrator for Abyei from the Dinka Ngok community, told Reuters news agency a Misseriya group had attacked a settlement in the early hours of Sunday morning.

But senior Misseriya official Saddig Babo Nimr told the agency the southern army had started the fighting by attacking a nomadic camp.

Officials have warned the death toll could rise.

"There is still fighting going on. The situation is very bad, and we cannot stop to count the dead," Mr Kuol told AFP news agency.

UN troops in Abyei have been boosted over the last few months because of the tensions.

North and south Sudan have suffered decades of conflicts driven by religious and ethnic divides, with an estimated 1.5 million people killed in the civil war.

The referendum on southern secession was agreed as part of the 2005 deal to end the 21-year civil war.

Sudan: A country divided
Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

The great divide across Sudan is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. Southern Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

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