Published: Jan 18, 2011 11:13 PM EST
Updated: Jan 18, 2011 8:14 PM EST

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - More than 8,000 Sudanese refugees living in the United States voted overwhelming in favor to split their homeland, Southern Sudan, from the north in a historic referendum that could create the world's newest country.

The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission on Tuesday announced the preliminary results for votes taken in eight U.S. cities this past week. Those cities were Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Nashville, Tenn., Omaha, Neb., Dallas, Phoenix and Seattle.

Benaiah Duku, a U.S. representative for the group overseeing the voting, said 8,412 people voted in favor of secession and 75 voted to keep the country united.

The referendum is part of a peace deal that ended the 1983-2005 civil war between Sudan's north and south that left about 2 million dead.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)