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Violence in Khartoum after rebel leader's death

Violence shook the Sudanese capital Tuesday, a day after 36 people were killed in violence sparked by the death of a rebel leader.
A man looks out from the remains of his
A man stands amid the remains of his shop, burned to the ground by rioters on Tuesday in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Violence shook the Sudanese capital Tuesday after a morning of tense calm, a day after 36 people were killed in furious riots sparked by the death of Sudanese vice president and former southern rebel leader John Garang.

In some neighborhoods heavily populated by southerners on the outskirts of the city, outsiders attacked people in the streets and raided homes, said William Ezekiel, managing editor of the Khartoum Monitor. He said at least two people in southern Khartoum had been shot and killed.

"The Arabs are attacking them, entering their houses and looking for southerners," said Ezekiel, whose newspaper focuses largely on southern issues.

He said the northerners were breaking into houses and trying "to dismantle anything southern."

"It's a reaction to the reaction from yesterday," Ezekiel said. "Where is the government? Where are the police?"

‘The situation is turning religious’
A senior U.N. official in Khartoum said angry southerners from the displaced people's camps outside the capital were converging on the area of Omdurman. He said a Muslim imam had been killed.

Garang died Saturday along with 13 other people in a helicopter crash near the Sudanese-Ugandan border. The government and Garang's own group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, ruled out foul play in his death.

"The situation is turning religious and that will be even more dangerous," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

The reports of deaths Tuesday could not be independently confirmed.

The government renewed the 12-hour curfew of the night before, to begin at 6 p.m. By 3:30 p.m., downtown streets were already practically empty. An occasional siren could be heard.

Tuesday's violence and tension followed riots the day before, when grief-stricken supporters of Garang rampaged in Khartoum, burning cars and chasing people with stones, some accusing the government of killing Garang. The government responded with riot police and set a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Three hundred injured Monday
Officials said 36 people were killed and approximately 300 more injured in Monday's clashes. No information was available on how many of those killed were security forces and protesters.

Three days of national mourning were declared for Garang.

Garang will be buried Saturday in Juba, the planned capital of the future autonomous government of the country's southern region, SPLM spokesman Yasir Arman said in neighboring Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

Garang's body is lying at New Site, one of his former bases in southern Sudan. Arman said Garang's body would be taken to key towns in southern Sudan to allow his supporters to pay their last respects before the state funeral in Juba, which he said would be attended by President Omar al-Bashir and other regional leaders and international representatives.

Garang, from southern Sudan, became the country's first vice president last month as part of the U.S.-backed peace deal that ended a two-decade-long civil war between his rebel force and the army of Sudan's Islamic-oriented government based in Khartoum.

The charismatic Garang was hailed for helping seal the peace deal, particularly across southern Sudan and among the several million southern refugees living in Khartoum

Deputy to replace deceased vice president
The SPLM has named Garang's longtime deputy, Salva Kiir Mayardit, to succeed him as head of the movement and president of south Sudan. Arman said Kiir will take over the post of first vice president, and that government representatives and SPLM officials were meeting New Site to plan the inauguration.

"The leadership decided to expedite the implementation of the agreement. What took place should add impetus to move forward toward peace. This was the wish of Dr. Garang, his commitment and conviction," Arman said.

One of Kiir's immediate tasks will be to continue working with al-Bashir and Sudan's second vice president to form a Cabinet by Aug. 9.

Two senior State Department officials are expected to arrive in neighboring Kenya soon before arranging to travel to Sudan to tell leaders in Khartoum and southern Sudan that Garang's death should not slow the momentum toward a comprehensive peace.

Garang was the dominant voice of the south since 1983. A colonel in Sudan's army, he was sent south to quell a rebellion but deserted to form a rebel movement that fought the Muslim government in Khartoum for a share of wealth and political power for the mostly Christian and animist south. More than 2 million people died in the conflict.

The deal and Garang's ascension to the national unity government were signs of hope for others who feel marginalized in Sudan. Many in the east and west, fighting their own battles with Khartoum, considered Garang an advocate.