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Thousands flee after Sudan clash

By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Khartoum

Map of Sudan

Thousands of people have fled the disputed Sudanese oil town of Abyei after fighting which left one person dead, according to a Sudanese official.

The shooting between members of the joint north-south army and police units came seven months after clashes risked re-igniting a bloody civil war.

The head of the UN Mission in Sudan Ashraf Qazi said he deplored the violent incident.

He strongly urged the parties to avoid any further outbreaks of unrest.

Abyei's deputy police commissioner said an argument broke out between soldiers and a market trader, adding that shots were fired when the police intervened.

He said one northern soldier had been killed.

UN officials said nine other people were injured.

Gunfire continued to be heard across the town on three occasions since then but there were no reports of any other injuries.

A 13-hour overnight curfew has now been imposed.

Local officials said up to 10,000 residents had returned to the area to rebuild their homes before Friday's clashes. International sources say 90% of those in the town have fled again.

This incident is the first significant outbreak of violence in the disputed central Sudanese town of Abyei since dozens were killed in clashes between northern and southern troops seven months ago.

Abyei street
Many fled Abyei during the fighting in May
Many feared May's fighting, which left 50,000 homeless, could plunge Sudan back into civil war.

Those clashes were sparked by an argument at a checkpoint but quickly escalated because of long-standing unresolved tensions in the area.

Those tensions date back to a two-decade civil war between the north and south.

A peace deal ended the conflict in 2005 but could not resolve the boundary for the oil-rich area.

Both sides claim it as their own and have remained at loggerheads over the demarcation of the region.

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