North battles south in disputed Sudan region

From The Miami Herald, February 28:

NAIROBI, Kenya —¬†Fighting between southern Sudan security forces and members of an Arab tribe from the north claimed at least 10 lives Sunday and Monday in the latest threat to Sudan’s peaceful partition this summer.

The battle took place in the hotly contested Abyei region, which both southern and northern Sudan claim, and was the second major confrontation there. Fighting in January killed at least 41 people.

Abyei straddles the border between Sudan’s Arab-ruled Muslim north and the mostly non-Muslim south, which voted in January to form a separate country in July. On which side Abyei will fall is undecided.

The latest fighting began on Sunday, when a local Arab militia attacked a southern police post outside the village of Todach, killing seven southern policemen and three militiamen, according to both sides.

The police were reinforced overnight and the battle intensified on Monday, said Deng Arop Kuol, the top civil official in the area. The number of casualties on the second day of fighting was not known.

The new round of skirmishes could refocus international attention on the most dangerous part of Sudan’s shaky transition as it begins to split after 50 years of on again-off again war. The conflict ended in a 2005 peace deal establishing southern self-rule for the six years leading up to the independence referendum.

The conflict over control of Abyei has sparked bloody battles throughout Sudan’s history. Situated where the desert of the north turns into the marshes of the south, the 4,000-square-mile area was transferred to Sudan’s northern administration under British colonial rule, even though it is the homeland of the Ngok Dinka, a southern tribe.

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