Home | News    Wednesday 3 August 2005

People flee central Khartoum, violence reported

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KHARTOUM, Aug 3 — People fled central Khartoum in cars on Wednesday while troops and riot police headed towards the centre of the Sudanese capital, where residents reported fresh violence, witnesses and journalists said.

The reported violence followed rumours a southern Sudanese militia leader had been killed. But the militia itself, the South Sudanese Defence Forces, and a Foreign Ministry official denied that the militia leader, Paulino Matip, was dead.

Earlier, clashes had been reported in Khartoum’s suburbs, but the city centre had been quiet since Monday when angry southerners took to the streets after the death of former southern rebel leader John Garang in a helicopter crash.

Streets were full of cars heading out of the city centre, while at least five truckloads of soldiers and riot police headed into a downtown residential and commercial area, a Reuters witness said.

State security and army officials were turning back any cars that were heading towards the centre.

One witness said he had heard gunshots in the central area. A hotel worker in central Khartoum said tear gas had been fired.

"There are clashes now in Khartoum, in downtown Khartoum," William Ezekiel, editor of the daily Khartoum Monitor, which has close ties to the southern community, told Reuters, saying he had spoken to residents and people in the area.

Witnesses said many people in plain clothes held sticks and some even openly carried rifles on Khartoum’s streets.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Najib Abdulwahab said: "The foreign ministry would like to refute the rumour that General Paulino Matip is dead. General Paulino is in good health."

Some southerners fear that the death of Garang, who led a southern uprising for two decades before forging peace with the northern government, could weaken their hand under power sharing arrangements agreed in the January peace deal.

(Reuters)

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