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Muslim mob destroys Sudan church compound

22 April 2012, 21:14

Khartoum - A Muslim mob has destroyed a church compound in Sudan, the pastor said on Sunday, amid a mood of nationalist fervour after Khartoum said it liberated an oilfield occupied by South Sudan.

Pastor Yousif Matar Kodi said hundreds of people descended on a farm and training compound run by the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Khartoum on Saturday morning.

"They burned Bibles and torched the school for training clergy on the farm, as well as the residence of the students," he said.

Three worship halls that served as public churches were also destroyed, Kodi added, blaming the attack on Islamic extremists.

"They are the only people who do such things," Kodi said. "Bulldozers came inside the farm and removed some trees that have been there for 100 years."

Such incidents are extremely rare in Sudan, but Kodi said he thinks it was linked to the government's announcement on Friday that its forces had defeated South Sudanese troops who had occupied the Heglig oilfield for 10 days.

The South said that, rather than being defeated, it had ordered a pull-out.

Either way, news that Sudan had got back its main oilfield sparked one of Khartoum's biggest celebrations in years.

"Allahu Akbar!" (God is greatest) many who took to the streets shouted.

Kodi said the church has owned the land for a century, but local authorities announced one month ago that they wanted it for a garden and playing field.

"Then last Friday the imam of the nearest mosque, in his speech, called the people to go early Saturday and take this land from the church," Kodi said.

Imams throughout the city last Friday described the effort to free Heglig as a holy war, according to witnesses.

The rhetoric of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who called for the overthrow of the "insect" government in the South, sparked concern in Washington.

A lawyer for the church, Abdelmoneim Adam, said he has asked for a police investigation into the church attack.

Kodi said his church, one of the largest in Sudan, had attracted many ethnic South Sudanese.

But as with other Christian denominations, most of his followers have returned South since it became independent last July.



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