An angry mob killed three traders in Sudan’s flashpoint town of Abyei, officials said, underlining growing tensions in the area claimed by both the country’s north and the south, which is about to secede.
The crowd gathered after a soldier tried to walk into Abyei’s main market with a gun on Saturday, and fired into the air after police turned him away, the region’s chief administrator Deng Arop Kuol told Reuters.
Young people from the area’s Dinka Ngok tribe, linked to the south, turned on northern traders, he added. Two traders were beaten and one shot, Kuol said.
“There was a commotion. When people heard gunfire everybody felt that something dangerous was happening. An angry mob attacked the traders. It is something that came out of the general anger of the situation,” he added.
Abyei was a battleground in the decades-long civil war between north and south Sudan that ended in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The accord promised two referendums — one on whether southerners should secede and the other on whether Abyei residents wanted to join the north or the south.
Southerners overwhelmingly voted to declare independence in their vote in January and are due to secede on July 9.
Abyei’s vote, scheduled to take place on the same day, never happened after bitter disputes, including one between the Dinka Ngok and Abyei’s north-linked Misseriya nomads over who was qualified to vote.
Northern and southern leaders have promised to hammer out a political settlement.
Soldiers from both sides have clashed in Abyei since the peace deal. Many analysts say it is one of the most likely places for conflict to reignite.
More than 300 civilians, many of them traders from the Misseriya, or north Sudan’s Darfur region, took shelter in a United Nations compound in Abyei town over the weekend, said UN spokesman Kouider Zerrouk.
Kuol said most had left the compound by Monday and set up their stalls again in the market.