Flight From Abyei

Violence in the contested Abyei region of Sudan has displaced thousands of families and threatens to derail talks leading to the birth of Africa’s newest country in July. Satellite images show troops from both north and south digging in around Abyei, a contested region where at least 149 people were killed in fighting that began in late February. Aid groups estimate some 45,000 people have fled the region. “The few people still in Abyei are gathering their property and preparing to leave as well,” said the Rev. Peter Suleiman, pastor of Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish in Abyei. The violence stems from a conflict between the nomadic Misseriya, a Khartoum-backed tribe that takes its cattle to Abyei during the dry season, and its permanent residents, mostly members of the Dinka Ngok tribe, who support the southern Sudan government in Juba. Eric Reeves, a Sudan expert at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., fears that an attempt by the Khartoum government to seize Abyei is imminent. He said tanks, artillery and soldiers are moving into position for an attack that could come anytime.

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