At least 9 die in S. Sudan attacks ahead of vote

January 8, 2011 18:06

Sudan — Two rebel groups clashed with Southern Sudan's military ahead of the region's historic independence referendum, leaving nine dead. A top security chief said Saturday he suspected the groups were trying to depress voter turnout in some areas, though most analysts expect a peaceful vote.

Southern Sudan begins voting in a week-long referendum Sunday that is likely to see Africa's largest country split in two. In order for the referendum to pass, a simple majority must vote for independence and 60 percent of the 3.9 million registered voters must cast ballots.

The attacks against the Southern Peoples' Liberation Army, or SPLA, happened late Friday and Saturday in an oil-rich area bordering northern Sudan. In the southern capital of Juba, though, residents were excitedly making preparations for the momentous vote.

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