Rival troops build up in Sudan's Abyei: satellite

Fri Mar 11, 2011 8:17am GMT

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Troops linked to north and south Sudan have taken up new positions in the contested Abyei region, according to satellite monitoring, raising fears of an escalation of violence.

Analysts say fertile and oil-producing Abyei is one of the most likely places for conflict to erupt in Sudan as the country prepares for the secession of its south, due on July 9.

More than 100 people died in clashes between groups aligned to either side last week, the southern army said. Washington said on Wednesday the violence was "unacceptable" and urged northern and southern leaders to reach a quick deal.

Southerners, who mostly follow Christian and traditional beliefs, voted overwhelmingly to declare independence in a January referendum promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the Muslim north.

Residents of the Abyei border region were promised their own vote on whether to join the north or south on the same day.

But that vote never took place due to disagreement between northern Arab Misseriya nomads and the south-linked Dinka Ngok group over who was qualified to vote.

Satellite images showed armed men had moved to new frontline positions in Abyei where they had built up forces and dug in, according to a statement from the Satellite Sentinel Project, set up by actor George Clooney and other activists.

Southerners have accused the north of arming the Misseriya and using its allied Popular Defence Force militia to raid inside the Abyei area and burn down thee villages last week.

The north's army and ruling National Congress Party (NCP) have dismissed the accusations and accused the south of sending in soldiers disguised as police officers -- an allegation denied by the south.   Continued...

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