KHARTOUM, Sudan – Police clashed with rioting tribesmen Saturday in the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan (search), leaving at least 14 people dead and 16 injured, a government official said. A tribal representative claimed 23 people were dead and 100 others were wounded.
Riots involving Beja tribesmen broke out early Saturday in Port Sudan, 425 miles northeast of the capital of Khartoum, Red Sea governor General Hatim al-Wasilah (search) told The Associated Press. The area is underdeveloped and poor, and the rioting appeared to be economically motivated.
The casualties occurred when police tried to stop widespread looting and vandalism, al-Wasilah said. He said the situation was under control.
Aamir Tahir (search), a political leader in the Beja tribe, said Sudanese security forces fired on demonstrators. Speaking to the AP in Kenya from Saudi Arabia, he said he was on the phone with someone in Port Sudan when gunfire erupted.
"I was talking to someone and while we were talking, I could hear the sound of gunfire on the phone," Tahir said.
Poverty-related illnesses, including tuberculosis, are common in the Beja area of Port Sudan, and illiteracy is a major problem.
Al-Wasilah said the Beja (search) tribesmen submitted demands to the government Friday for the "fair distribution of wealth and power" and officials assured them their demands would be met.
Tribesmen, in return, promised not to riot, he said.
"However, early Saturday morning, riots started and a group led the crowd in the looting and sabotage of private property, and we have to deal with them to restore order and calm," al-Wasilah said.
The official Sudanese News Agency reported that a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed in the area for Saturday and Sunday nights.
Violence involving Beja tribesmen, the main ethnic group in eastern Sudan, broke out Friday as well, Wasilah said. There were no reports on casualties from those incidents.