UN Reports Burning, Looting in Sudan's Abyei

Published on Monday 23rd May 2011

The U.N. mission in Sudan reports burning and looting in the contested town of Abyei, which north Sudanese forces seized two days ago.The mission strongly condemned the violence in a statement Monday and said the north's army is responsible for maintaining law and order in the areas they control.The U.N. blamed the burning and looting on "armed elements" in Abyei without elaborating.Earlier, members of the U.N. Security Council demanded that north Sudan withdraw its forces from Abyei, which is also claimed by soon-to-be-independent south Sudan.South Sudan says the north's seizure of the territory was illegal and is calling for help from the international community.The northern and southern armies had agreed to conduct joint patrols in Abyei. But fighting erupted Thursday when a northern army convoy came under attack. Each army accuses the other of firing first.The north's seizure of Abyei has raised fears of a new civil war in Sudan.  The north and south fought fiercely over the oil-rich region during a 21-year war that ended in 2005.On Monday, an aide to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Khartoum remains committed to the peace deal that ended that conflict.  Separately, Bashir said any attempt by south Sudan's army to take control of Abyei is unacceptable and means a return to war.  He added that "our intention is create warm relations with southerners."South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for independence in a January referendum and is scheduled to become the world's newest nation on July 9.A separate referendum on Abyei's fate was cancelled because of disagreement over who would be allowed to vote.The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says it received 42 wounded people in a hospital south of Abyei following north Sudan's attack. It says nearly all of the town's population has fled since the violence began.


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