Huge numbers of people are voting in Southern Sudan in a landmark referendum on independence from the north.
The week-long vote is widely expected to result in Africa’s largest country being split in two.
Amid scenes of jubilation, south Sudanese leader Salva Kiir said: “This is an historic moment the people of Southern Sudan have been waiting for.”
The poll was agreed as part of the 2005 peace deal which ended the two-decade north-south civil war.
The leaders of the mainly Muslim north have promised to allow the potential new country, where most people are Christian or follow traditional religions, to secede peacefully.
The BBC’s Will Ross in Southern Sudan says he has not met a single person who says they will vote in favour of continued unity with the north.
But President Omar al-Bashir has warned an independent south would face instability.
Many people queued up to vote long before polls opened.
“My vote is for my mother and father, and my brothers and sisters who were murdered in the war,” Abraham Parrying told the BBC as he waited to vote in the southern capital, Juba.
“I also vote for my children-to-be – if God grants me that – so that they can grow up in a south Sudan that is free and is at peace.”
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