Abyei on the edge after killing of top Dinka leader

Most serious incident since Sudan withdrawal

Tension and anger on Sunday gripped the Abyei region disputed by Sudan and South Sudan following the killing of a top tribal chief and an Ethiopian peacekeeper, residents said, as the UN stepped up security.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for calm after the Ngok Dinka chief Kual Deng Majok and the peacekeeper died in an "attack" by a Misseriya tribesman in the region on Saturday.
"It looks like Dinka are very angry," one local resident said.
He reported fire coming from the Abyei town centre, where Misseriya operate small shops.
A curfew was in effect, with the Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), setting up extra checkpoints trying to restrict the movement of people and prevent gatherings, said the resident, asking for anonymity.
The resident, who is familiar with the incident, said five Misseriya also died in Saturday's skirmish.
"There is high tension and all sides are alert, ready for anything," Mohammed Al-Ansari, a Misseriya chief in Abyei, said.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said in a Twitter message that UNISFA was "expanding patrols with aim of maintaining calm".
UN chief Ban urged both tribes as well as the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to "avoid any escalation of this unfortunate event," a statement from his spokesperson said late Saturday, condemning the killings.
The UN said two of its Blue Helmets were also seriously wounded in the incident, "an attack by a Misseriya assailant on a UNISFA convoy".
The status of Dinka-dominated Abyei has not been resolved despite steps which Sudan and South Sudan have taken since March to normalise their relations, after months of intermittent clashes along their undemarcated frontier.
Abyei's status was the most sensitive issue left unsettled when South Sudan separated in 2011.
The territory was to hold a referendum in January 2011 on whether it belonged with the north or South, but disagreement on who could vote stalled the ballot.
Majok was heading north from Abyei town with UNISFA peacekeepers, who are the only authority in the area, when a group of Misseriya stopped them and began negotiations, another Misseriya leader said.
"Then a clash happened when a UNISFA soldier shot one of the Misseriya who was readying his weapon," said the Misseriya chief who asked to remain anonymous.
During the resulting clash, "the Dinka leader's car was hit by an explosion and he and his driver were killed".
Majok was travelling with UNISFA commander Yohannes Tesfamariam, who was unhurt, said the Abyei resident familiar with the situation.
The Nomadic Arab Misseriya, who migrate through Abyei with their cattle, wanted to know why a Dinka was being taken through their zone.
Negotiations continued "for a long time" until a Misseriya youth, shouting and armed with a weapon, climbed onto the roof of Majok's car, the resident said, declining to be named.
"At some point a bullet came from one side," triggering an exchange of fire but it is unclear who shot first, he said.
A Dinka leader said Majok "was attacked by Misseriya" in the incident which also killed another Dinka.
The death of Majok is the most serious incident since Sudanese troops withdrew in May last year to end a year-long occupation that forced more than 100,000 people to flee Abyei towards South Sudan.
Sudan and South Sudan have been implementing the timetables they agreed to in March for resuming the flow of oil between them, re-opening border crossings, establishing a demilitarised buffer zone and other measures.
But timelines they also agreed upon to set up Abyei's administrative structure, including a police service, have not been adhered to.