Police clashed with tribesmen Saturday in the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan, leaving at least 14 people dead and 16 injured, a government official said. The United Nations said police fired on peaceful demonstrators.
Abdullah Moussa Abdullah, secretary-general of the Beja Congress in Red Sea state, said by phone from Port Sudan that the violence erupted as 300 to 400 members of the Beja ethnic group gathered for a march to demand that the government start negotiations on sharing power and natural resources.
Moussa said police appeared “and just opened fire at them before they even moved. They fired at their heads and bodies, not even in the air.” Three children were among the dead, he said.
The governor of Red Sea state, Gen. Hatim Wasilah, said the casualties occurred when police tried to stop widespread looting and vandalism.
“Early Saturday morning, riots started ... and we have to deal with them to restore order and calm,” Wasilah said.
The U.S. Embassy warned Americans living in Sudan to avoid unnecessary travel to Port Sudan, 420 miles north of the capital, Khartoum.
Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for the U.N. Mission in Sudan, said the clash could open a new front of violence in Sudan, where a nearly 2-year-old conflict is raging in the western Darfur region, and a peace treaty was reached only this month to end the 21-year north-south civil war.
“Shooting with live ammunition at people and killing them while they are demonstrating peacefully is not the right way to handle these incidents,” Achouri said.