KHARTOUM, Aug 1 (Reuters) - At least 24 people were killed when thousands of southern Sudanese clashed with police in Khartoum on Monday after the death of former rebel leader John Garang, police officers and witnesses said.
"There are 24 bodies now in the hospital," one officer said at a hospital where bodies were brought in ambulances, public transport vehicles and police cars. Another police officer at the hospital gave the same figure for the number of dead.
A Reuters witness saw at least 12 bodies at the morgue, and a police official said some of the dead were police.
The rioting was some of the worst in the Sudanese capital in recent years. In May, displaced southerners attacked a police station in a camp on the outskirts of the capital and at least 17 police and residents were killed in the violence.
The government earlier said it had no information about any deaths in Monday's melee. The Khartoum governor announced a curfew from 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) until 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) in the capital.
"People have been running all over the streets. The policemen are taking people from the streets. There is fire and smoke," a Reuters TV witness said.
The rioters, some wielding knives and bars, also looted shops.
"They are beating anybody they see who looks like they are Arab," Swayd Abdullah, a student, told Reuters.
A key figure in a January peace deal and leader of southern Sudan's rebel movement during its two decades of war with the government in Khartoum, Garang died over the weekend after the Ugandan presidential helicopter he was travelling in went down in bad weather.
His death came just weeks after he returned triumphant to Khartoum to join the government as first vice president.
The southern Sudanese who gave Garang a tumultuous welcome during that trip turned their fury over his loss on cars and shops in the capital during several hours of rioting.
"There are groups of southern Sudanese on the streets attacking people and wrecking shops but the areas with governmental buildings are quiet," said Seif al-Deen Abdallah, a Khartoum taxi driver.
KILLED IN THE STREET
Some gunfire could be heard, although it was not clear if that was in mourning for Garang or from fighting.
Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera showed film footage from Khartoum of a man laying face down on the pavement with blood coming from his head and at least four burning vehicles.
One Khartoum resident said two people were killed in his street in the riots, but he did not give details.
There were also reports of violence in the south, where Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) the mainly Islamic government in Khartoum.
Anglican priest Reverend Paul Yugusuk said he had heard reports of rioting in Juba, one of the main population centres in the south. "There are reports that people are on the streets smashing shop-fronts," he told reporters in Uganda, citing telephone calls with people in the area.
An aid worker with Catholic Relief Services in Yei in southern Sudan said there was shooting there, but only out of respect for Garang. "People are shooting in the air as a sign of mourning. There are gunshots everywhere," he told Reuters in Nairobi by phone from Yei.
(Reporting by Reuters TV in Khartoum; Wangui Kanina in Nairobi; Daniel Wallis in Kampala; Amil Khan in Cairo)
- Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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