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One Dead, Scores Flee Violence at South Sudan Camp

Refugees from South Kordofan, Sudan, in the Yida refugee camp in Unity state, South Sudan, May 2012.
A Unity state policeman was killed and hundreds fled as gunfights broke out at the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency said.

The police officer was caught in crossfire when fighting broke out Saturday evening between as yet unidentified groups, said Tim Irwin, the spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in South Sudan.

"It lasted for... between 20 and 30 minutes and then the local police were able to bring it under control. But you can imagine those people living in the camp who were near the fighting feared for their lives and they went to another area,” Irwin said.

Many of the refugees who fled the fighting have returned to the camp, said the UNHCR, which has not been able to establish what sparked the fight.

The UNHCR has issued several warnings about the presence of arms in Yida camp.

Under international treaties, refugees are not supposed to carry weapons. But Irwin says the size of Yida camp, which hosts close to 70,000 refugees, makes supervision difficult.

Most of the refugees at Yida fled to the camp from South Kordofan state in Sudan, where Sudanese troops have been fighting rebels.

Irwin says the UNHCR is in the process of moving some of the refugees housed in Yida camp to a new settlement at Ajuong Thok in Unity State.

The UNHCR hopes to relocate some 20,000 refugees before the end of March.

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