Khartoum: Aid workers reported heavy gunfire on Sunday in the capital of Sudan`s North Darfur state El Fasher, the scene of recent protests over a collapsed investment scheme.
The region`s joint UN/African Union peacekeeping force said sporadic shooting broke out after a group of up to 1,000 people were seen moving toward the city centre, where police used tear gas last week to break up a demonstration of angry investors.
UN officials and locals said last week investors had complained about losing large amounts of money in a Ponzi scheme -- a pyramid model where money is illegally paid from one investor to the other and presented as profit.
"The shooting is still going on ... It is heavy shooting," said one aid worker, speaking on condition of anonymity on Sunday morning.
"We don`t know if it is police shooting, or civilians, or the Arab militias in town. They lost a lot of money and are very unhappy," said the aid worker.
Darfur`s UNAMID peacekeeping force released a statement saying it had advised staff to limit movements in the town.
No one was immediately available for comment from El Fasher`s police or local government.
El Fasher, and Darfur`s other major cities, have become thriving commercial centres during the remote western region`s seven-year conflict, boosted by foreign cash brought in by aid workers and peacekeepers and accelerating urbanisation.
Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Sudan`s government in 2003, accusing it of neglecting the development of Darfur.
Khartoum armed mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising, unleashing a wave of violence that Washington and some activists call genocide -- a charge Khartoum rejects.