60 die in Darfur gold mine collapse

NNA - Dozens of people have been killed in a gold mine collapse in Sudan's Darfur, said the chief of the district where fighting over gold in January led to the region's worst unrest in years, AFP reported.

It is not known how many people may still be missing after Monday's accident.

"The number of people who died is more than 60," Haroun al-Hassan, the local commissioner in Jebel Amir, North Darfur, said on Thursday, adding that rescue operations were still taking place.

"I cannot give exact figures because no one got precise numbers of how many people were going inside the tunnel," which went down 40 metres (yards), he said.

Rescuers were using traditional tools to try to reach the victims, he said, without specifying whether anyone might still be alive.

"We cannot use machines because if they came near, the ground will collapse. People are using traditional tools and because of this, the rescue is very slow," Hassan said.

Seven weeks of clashes between two Arab tribes in Jebel Amir during January and February killed more than 500 members of the Beni Hussein tribal group, a Benni Hussein member of parliament for the area said earlier.

The violence uprooted an estimated 100,000 people.

Fighting erupted on January 5 between Beni Hussein and another Arab tribe, the Rezeigat, when a Rezeigat leader who is an officer in Sudan's Border Guard force apparently laid claim to a gold-rich area in Beni Hussein territory, Amnesty International said.

Humanitarian sources said at the time that the incident was the worst example of inter-Arab violence to emerge in the past two years as government-linked Arab groups got "out of control" and turned on each other.

One humanitarian source said the Beni Hussein had refused to pay newly imposed government mining fees adding up to "huge, huge money".

Gold has become a key commodity for cash-strapped Sudan since South Sudan separated two years ago with the loss of about 75 percent of the country's oil production.


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