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'300 houses torched' in Sudan's Abyei

07 March 2011, 12:57

Khartoum - A US campaign group monitoring Sudan's restive north-south border region said on Monday that 300 buildings in the Abyei village of Tajalei were torched by militia groups with links to Khartoum.

"At least 300 buildings at Tajalei were intentionally destroyed by fire, according to Satellite Sentinel Project analysis of the DigitalGlobe satellite image taken on March 06," anti-genocide group the Enough Project said in a statement.

"Roughly two-thirds of those buildings appear to be consistent with civilian residential structures, known as tukuls," it said, adding that the satellite imagery pointed to "a deliberate attempt to subvert peace efforts by elements associated with the Khartoum government".

The satellite monitoring project was set up by Hollywood star and human rights activist George Clooney in December.

Abyei's chief administrator Deng Arop Kuol confirmed that Tajalei was attacked on Saturday by Misseriya Arab nomads, who support the Khartoum government, and the Sudanese Armed Forces.

"On Saturday, the Misseriya and SAF attacked Tajalei village, which is about 25km northeast of Abyei town. They burned some houses, but no one was killed," he told AFP.

Peace agreement

The latest attack in the flashpoint Abyei region comes just a day after French NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres said tens of thousands of people had fled earlier clashes between the Misseriya and the Ngok Dinka people, who back the south.

At least 70 people were killed and two villages razed in the two days of fighting that began on Tuesday, according to a southern army spoeksman.

The violence also coincides with efforts to implement a peace agreement reached by the governments of north and south Sudan in Kadugli, the state capital of South Kordofan, on January 17.

Al-Dirdiri Mohammed Ahmed, the Khartoum government's representative in charge of the Abyei file, said a follow-up committee was established on Sunday to implement the January agreement.

Northern and southern officials, meanwhile, are due to meet in Khartoum on Monday to discuss Sudan's contested north-south border, which Ahmed said would include Abyei's border.

Main threat

But he countered the accusations that the Misseriya nomads were responsible for the last week's violence, by claiming that the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement had been arming its supporters in the region.

"The main threat to security is by armed groups that are supported by the SPLM and were brought to Abyei before the referendum under the guise of the south Sudan police," he told AFP.

"The Misseriya took this as a threat to their movement in the area and access to water for their cows," he added.

Tensions in the impoverished district have been high since January's independence referendum in the neighbouring south, which saw an almost unanimous vote for secession from the north.

A simultaneous plebiscite on Abyei's own future, as to whether it joins the north or south, was indefinitely postponed with neither side able to agree on voter eligibility.



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