The Ghana government has deployed police and military forces to the north of the country, where authorities say ethnic clashes have killed at least 18 people. The fighting prompted the government of President John Kufuor to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the northern Bawku region.

Members of two ethnic groups, the Kusasis and the Mamprusis, started fighting after a dispute in which a truck was burned. Witnesses said members of both groups fired guns, and set vehicles and homes ablaze on Sunday and Monday.

Government officials in the capital, Accra, dispatched police and military reinforcements to the region. Despite the curfew, residents reported sporadic gunfire on Monday night. Witnesses and police officials at the scene on Tuesday said the number of dead may be as high as 50. Government officials have put the official tally at 18.

The fighting has sent scores of people into hiding in the regional capital, Bolgatanga. A resident says most of the medical staff abandoned a local hospital for fear that it might be attacked.

The Mamprusis and the Kusasis have a long history of conflict because of long-standing land disputes.

The recent clashes mark the second time in the past two years that the groups have fought. At least 30 people died in fighting between them last year.