Death toll from Sudan clashes reaches 76, southern army says
Jan 13, 2011, 12:28 GMT
Juba, Sudan - At least 76 people were killed in three days of clashes between rival tribes in Sudan's restive Abyei region, a southern army official said Thursday as a landmark referendum on independence for the south entered its fifth day.
Fighting broke out Friday between the Arab Misseriya, a northern nomadic tribe that travels through Abyei each year, and the southern Ngok Dinka tribe in the oil-producing border region.
'For the Misseriya side, it was above 50,' Philip Aguer, spokesman for the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), told the German Press Agency dpa. 'On the side of the police and youth of Abyei, it was more than 26 killed and 33 wounded.'
Abyei had been scheduled to hold a separate poll on Sunday to decide whether to go with the north or south, but it was postponed when tribal leaders could not agree on whether the Misseriya had the right to vote.
Observers have warned repeatedly that the volatile region could spark renewed conflict between the north and south of Sudan. In 2008, clashes between the northern and southern armies in Abyei claimed dozens of lives and displaced tens of thousands of residents.
The ongoing referendum is the centerpiece of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and Animist south - a conflict that claimed the lives of more than 2 million southerners and displaced 4 million more.
Just under 4 million Southern Sudanese are registered to vote in the poll, which is widely expected to see the south vote to break away from the north.
The result will only be considered valid if more than 60 per cent of registered voters cast their ballots. Southern Sudanese officials and former United States president Jimmy Carter, whose group is observing the poll, believe the vote will be valid.
'I really don't see any threat to a validation of the vote at this point,' Carter told journalists in the southern capital Juba.
According to the referendum commission's timetable, preliminary results will be announced on February 1. Final results are expected by February 14.
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