KHARTOUM Scores of policemen and nearly 200 tribesmen were killed in clashes this week between two pastoralist groups in Sudan's South Kordofan area, Sudan's state news agency SUNA reported on Friday.
Sudan's Internal Affairs Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamad put the total number dead after the fighting at 244, according to SUNA.
"The death toll is 89 among the Misseriya, 80 among the Rizeigat and 75 policemen," Hamad told a cabinet meeting in Khartoum.
Some 3,000 armed horsemen attacked police positions on Tuesday where the police were trying to provide a buffer between the two tribes who are frequently in conflict, often in cattle raids and over grazing land and water in the semi-arid area.
Positioned in the middle of Sudan, South Kordofan was a major conflict area in a 22-year-long war between Khartoum and rebels from southern Sudan that ended in 2005. The area is still struggling to recuperate and is prey to severe tribal rivalries.
The oil-producing state's Information Minister Ali Kuku told Reuters that although he could not give exact death tolls local estimates put the police death toll at about 80 and similar numbers for warriors from each of the tribes.
"We didn't expect this big thing to happen," he said, adding that the fighting began as a small conflict between a few individuals from each tribe but spiraled out of control. "The war has stopped now, but we're investigating what happened," he said.
(Reporting by Skye Wheeler in Khartoum; Editing by Giles Elgood)