Vice President’s death sparks protests in Sudan

Bloody street clashes have erupted between Christian and Arab gangs in Khartoum following the death of Sudanese Vice President and former rebel leader John Garang, according to U.N. officials in the Sudanese capital.

Elizabeth Colton, a spokeswoman for the embassy, told CNN that riots and looting began in parts of the city and in distant suburbs after the government officially announced Garang's death in a helicopter crash.

"It triggered a huge outcry," she said. "He'd barely been in office, hadn't even been a month. There is huge frustration and concern throughout the country."

"The government has urged the people to be calm and has said it is very much committed to the peace process," she said.

Video from Arab network Al Jazeera showed dozens of vehicles in flames and one group of people carrying an injured man to a waiting emergency vehicle. Thick black smoke rose into the air and swelled through the streets from several locations, reports CNN.

John Garang signed a deal to end 21 years of civil war in January and was sworn in as vice-president three weeks ago.

The protesters are throwing stones and smashing office windows. Gunfire can be heard and the security forces are trying to seal off the city centre, our correspondent says.

There are also reports of unrest elsewhere in Sudan.

Many of the 4m southern Sudanese living in Khartoum hoped Mr Garang would change their lives and end discrimination in favor of Arabs and they are now venting their frustration at his death, informs BBC.

According to Voice of America, Salva Kiir Mayardit - deputy chairman of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement Army - was quick to try to reassure those in Khartoum that Mr. Garangs death would not derail the hard-earned peace deal reached between him and Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir.

"Southern Sudan and, indeed, the whole Sudan has lost its beloved son, Dr. John Garang de Mabior. The first vice president of the Republic of Sudan and the president of South Sudan was on an official visit to Uganda during the period of 29, 30 July, 2005, when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed near South of New Kush on his return last Saturday," he said.

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