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UN says Ghanaian peacekeeper killed in violence in South Sudan

JUBA (Reuters) - A United Nations peacekeeper from Ghana has been killed alongside some civilians after clashes between rival local groups in the Abyei region on South Sudan's border with Sudan, a U.N. statement said.

According to the statement by the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), the clashes occurred in three locations in the Abyei area on Saturday.

This led to casualties and the evacuation of civilians to UNISFA bases to provide safety for those caught up in the violence, the statement said.

During the fighting, one UNISFA base came under attack and although the attack was repelled "tragically a Ghanaian peacekeeper was killed during the incident," the statement said.

The U.N. mission said it was still verifying the number of people killed, injured and displaced by the violence.

Clashes between different communities are common in South Sudan, which is still reeling from years of a devastating war that pitted the country's leader, Salva Kiir, against his former deputy, Riek Machar, in a battle between rival tribes.

The U.N. statement did not say which tribes were involved in Saturday clashes.

The Abyei region, rich in oil resources, experiences frequent bouts of violence. Rival factions of the Dinka ethnic group are locked in a dispute over the location of an administrative boundary.

The ownership of Abyei itself is disputed between Sudan and South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011.

(Reporting by Waakhe Simon Wudu; Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Frances Kerry)