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Riot In Sudan Leaves 14 Dead

Police clashed with rioting tribesmen on Saturday in the coastal city of Port Sudan, leaving at least 14 people dead and 16 injured, a government official said.

Riots involving Beja tribesmen broke out early Saturday morning in Port Sudan, 425 miles northeast of the capital of Khartoum, Red Sea governor General Hatim Al Wasilah told The Associated Press. The area is underdeveloped and poor and the rioting appeared to be economically motivated.

The casualties occurred when police tried to stop widespread looting and vandalism, said Wasilah. He was not specific but said the situation was under control.

Wasilah said the Beja tribesmen, the main ethnic group in eastern Sudan, on Friday had submitted demands for the "fair distribution of wealth and power" to the government and that officials had assured them their demands would be met.

The Beja area of Port Sudan is one of the least developed areas in the country. Poverty-related illness, including tuberculosis, are common and illiteracy is a major problem.

On Friday, the United Nations said an airstrike by the Sudanese air force on villagers in southern Darfur killed or wounded nearly 100 people in a serious violation of a fragile cease-fire.

The bombardment Wednesday of villages outside Shangil Tobaya sent thousands of people fleeing, U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri said in a telephone interview from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "deeply disturbed" by the bombing, spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York.

"This is the latest in a series of grave cease-fire violations that have resulted in a large number of civilian casualties, the displacement of thousands of people, and severe access restrictions for relief workers," Eckhard said in a statement.

Achouri said African Union observers at the scene had reported "almost 100 casualties" but did not specify how many were dead and how many wounded.

"But 100 casualties is 100 too many, be they wounded or dead," she said. "It is definitely one of the most serious violations of the cease-fire" signed by the government and the Darfur rebels last year.

The United Nations' deputy chief envoy to Sudan, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, spoke to the Sudanese Foreign Ministry about the bombardment, but had not received a reply, Achouri said. The Sudanese government had issued no statement on the incident by Friday night. The chief spokesman of the Foreign Ministry did not answer his cell phone Friday, the Islamic sabbath.

Aid workers based in Shangil Tobaya, 40 miles south of El Fasher, said they saw bombs exploding on the ground Wednesday afternoon and an air force Antonov circling overhead. Later Wednesday, the African Union, which has 1,400 cease-fire monitors and protection troops in Darfur, confirmed the aerial bombardment, calling it a "major violation" of the cease-fire.

"The government of Sudan always says aerial bombardments are not government policy and that President Omar el-Bashir has issued firm instructions that there should be no use of Antonovs for aerial bombardment," Achouri said.

The Sudanese government often has been accused of employing its air force against civilians in Darfur, and it has usually denied the allegations. It is rare that an aerial bombardment is confirmed by the African Union.

Achouri also disclosed that rebels were believed to be responsible for the destruction of Hamada village in southern Darfur last week.

Earlier this week, the United Nations announced the attack on Hamada, singling it out as the worst case of the escalated fighting in Darfur. More than 100 people, mainly women and children, were feared killed.

Hamada and Shangil Tobaya lie in the northeast of South Darfur. Fighting has displaced more than 10,000 people in the area during the past two weeks, according to U.N. figures.

Achouri said the attacks at Hamada and Shangil Tobaya were a blow to the widely held aspiration that the momentum of the Sudan's North-South peace accord could help produce a settlement in Darfur.

On Jan. 9, the Khartoum government signed a peace agreement with the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Army, ending 22 years of civil war — the longest on the African continent.

U.S. diplomats at the United Nations in New York said this week that they would be making proposals to the Security Council to bring to justice the perpetrators of atrocities in Darfur.

The Darfur conflict, which the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Army and allied Justice and Equality Movement took up arms against what they saw as years of state neglect and discrimination against Sudanese of African origin.

The government responded with a counterinsurgency campaign in which the Janjaweed, an Arab militia, committed wide-scale abuses against the African population. An estimated 1.8 million people have been displaced in the conflict.

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