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Police fires tear gas at Sudan cathedral, six hurt

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Jan 2, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Police fired tear gas into the Anglican cathedral in Khartoum during New Year’s Eve mass, injuring six people including the secretary of Sudan’s first vice president, the parish priest has said.

Canon Sylvester Thomas, of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, said Tuesday he did not know the reason for the attack on All Saint’s Cathedral at midnight (2100 GMT) on Sunday, and police officials were unavailable for comment.

However, a local newspaper reported that police had been pursuing a man who had attacked someone with a knife.

Thomas said that 20 minutes after he began the service "explosions rang out inside the building. Nine tear gas bombs landed among the more than 500 worshippers, which included such eminent people as former Vice President Abel Alair."

Among those hurt were Alair’s wife and the secretary of Sudan’s current first vice president, he said. He added that six people had to be hospitalised, including someone burnt by a plastic chair that had caught fire.

Thomas said he did not know the reason for the assault, in which he claimed police also beat people with batons as they tried to flee the church.

He said he had filed a complaint with the authorities, adding that "such incidents as this do not help peaceful coexistence among religions in Sudan."

A report in the Al-Sudani daily quoted security sources as saying police were pursuing a man who had carried out an assault with a knife and had tried to hide among the worshippers gathered outside the main door.

However, it quoted Thomas as saying no one but worshippers was at the door.

A majority of Sudan’s population is Muslim, but there is a sizeable Christian minority, particularly in the south and in the capital.

The Episcopal Church is an autonomous province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

(AFP)

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