Situation in Abyei, Sudan remains contested: UN spokesman

09:44, May 26, 2011      

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The situation in and around the disputed Sudanese region of Abyei remains tense, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said in the United Nations Wednesday.

"Initial patrols around the area of conflict suggests that looting and pillaging have left the town badly damaged and empty," Nesirky said at a daily news briefing.

A crew of four UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) helicopters lifting off in quick succession witnessed shots fired from positions believed to be close to the mission's premises in Abyei, but were not hit and were not carrying passengers, the spokesman said.

"No civilian casualties have been observed but sporadic gunfire persists in the area," he said.

UNMIS is in the process of deploying an additional company to the area to be completed on Wednesday. Another company of four Armored Personnel Carriers was redeployed Wednesday to Agok, which is south of Abyei, where most civilians affected by the conflict fled to.

UNMIS has temporarily relocated some of its civilian staff based in Abyei pending a return to normal security conditions.

Last week the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) attacked and took control of Abyei after a UN convoy transporting troops of the SAF came under attack in Dokura, an area just north of Abyei, which was under the control of the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

The Security Council has condemned the move as a breach of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the long- running north-south civil war in Sudan.

The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) on Tuesday said more than 15,000 civilians have fled Abyei to Agok area in south Sudan after the SAF had controlled Abyei.

Abyei is close to the oil fields in southern Sudan's Unity State and at the same time lies in South Kordofan State, the only oil-producing state in northern Sudan.

A referendum on Abyei was supposed to be held on Jan. 9, 2011, coincident with the south Sudan referendum, but it was postponed in the wake of a difference between the National Congress Party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement over who has the right to vote in the referendum.

Source: Xinhua
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