UNHCR says concerned at wider displacement in Sudan's Abyei

08:06, June 01, 2011      

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The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday expressed concern about the risk of wider civilian displacement in the area south of Abyei in Sudan.

A statement from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said a field visit in the border region late last week found the town virtually emptied of its normal population of 50-55,000 inhabitants where large numbers of fighters were present on the streets. "Thus far 31, 256 displaced people have been registered in Warrap State and 27,961 in Agok itself - which is part of the Abyei area. We have also seen smaller numbers of displaced in neighboring states to the southwest of Abyei," the statement said.

It said pilfering was openly going on, with people apparently organizing batches of stolen belongings.

"The UN team making this visit saw a stream of civilians heading south towards and past Agok. A number of villages just south of Abyei were burning. Many people feared that Agok itself might soon be attacked," UNHCR said. Currently, assessment teams are working to reach areas that have been cut off due to insecurity and heavy rains.

"In Agok, displaced people have told us that many people had gone into hiding in the bush to avoid being caught in the fighting. We are seeing a number of cases in which families have been split during the fighting," it said. As of late on Monday, the UN refugee agency said looting and sporadic shooting was continuing as colleagues witnessed trucks carrying looted goods leaving Abyei.

Recent unrest in Abyei has centered around tensions between the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka ethnic communities, with disputes over land rights to the area.

Source: Xinhua
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