Violence in the disputed region of Abyei has killed at least 30 people along Sudan's north-south divide, officials said Monday. Observers fear the latest unrest could spark more fighting amid an otherwise peaceful and jubilant independence referendum in the south.
Abyei remains the most contentious sticking point between north and south following a two-decade civil war that left 2 million dead. Even President Obama, who applauded this week's historic referendum on independence in the south, warned that violence in the Abyei region should cease.
United Nations spokesman Martin Nesirky said Monday the organization is "extremely concerned" about the reports of clashes and casualties in Abyei.
"The mission is in the process of confirming the numbers [of casualties], and containing the situation with enhanced patrols and engaging with the top leadership," Nesirky said at a regular news briefing at U.N. headquarters.
Abyei, which holds oil deposits, had been promised its own self-determination vote, but now whether it remains part of Sudan or joins an independent south will be decided in negotiations that so far have made little progress.
Jubilant voters flooded polling stations for a second day on Monday. The seven days of balloting are likely to produce an overwhelming vote for independence, and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said he will let the oil-rich south secede peacefully.
The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission said Monday that voter turnout reached 20 percent in the Southern Sudan; and 14 percent in the north of the country.