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Thousands Flee Clashes in Disputed Sudanese Town

Officials in southern Sudan say thousands of civilians have fled the town of Abyei following clashes between government troops and former southern rebels that broke out Wednesday.

The United Nations has evacuated some 250 staff members from the area after fighting that killed at least two soldiers. A few staff members and about 400 U.N. peacekeepers, mostly Zambian, remained behind.

Local officials say talks are underway to end the clashes.

A U.N. spokeswoman said fighting mostly subsided Thursday, but that sporadic shooting could still occasionally be heard. She said the town is almost deserted and the market is closed.

The town of Abyei lies at the center of a region wanted for its oil by both the government in Khartoum and the semi-autonomous government in the south.

Disagreements over Abyei and other issues have stalled implementation of a 2005 peace deal that ended Sudan's north-south civil war.

That war lasted more than 20 years and killed an estimated two million people.

The north-south conflict is separate from the fighting in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.