Women and children fled en masse from a disputed flashpoint town between north and south Sudan after fighting this week killed more than 100 people, officials said Thursday.
Abyei has long been seen as the major sticking point between the north and south, which voted to secede in January and is on course to become the world’s newest country in July.
Abyei had been promised a separate self-determination vote, but its future is now being negotiated by officials from the north and south.
“Now all the women and children have evacuated the town. They have moved south because they expect more fighting in the town,” said Father Peter Suleiman, a Catholic priest who spoke to the Associated Press by phone from Abyei town on Thursday morning.
Col. Philip Aguer, the spokesman for Southern Sudan’s military, said more than 70 people were killed in fighting between Sunday and Tuesday. Aguer said that armed members of the Arab cattle-herding Misseriya tribe, militia fighters and northern army forces attacked several villages north of the town of Abyei.
The south blames the Khartoum government for instigating the violence.