KHARTOUM, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Sudan’s armed forces have seized a town close to a rebel stronghold in the border state of Blue Nile where fighting has been going on for almost two months, state media said on Thursday.
A rebel spokesman confirmed a battle in the town of Sali but denied the army had driven away its fighters from the area near the border with newly-independent South Sudan and Ethiopia.
The army has been fighting rebels of the SPLM-North in Blue Nile since September. The two sides are also fighting in neighbouring South Kordofan state, north Sudan’s main oil state.
Army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad told state news agency SUNA that after a 12-hour battle, Sudan’s forces had taken Sali, nine kilometres (5.6 miles) north of Kurmuk, which is seen as a stronghold of the SPLM-N and its armed wing SPLA.
“The armed forces took the SPLA military camp in Sali and cleared it completely of rebels,” he said.
But a SPLM-N spokesman said fighting was still going on there: “SPLA forces have not been driven away from the area.”
Last month, activists said the Sudanese army had deployed an armoured brigade along a road to Kurmuk.
Analysts say fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan risks drawing Khartoum’s former civil war foe South Sudan into a proxy war.
The Sudanese government has accused the south’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of being behind the violence. The South denies this.
Events in Blue Nile and South Kordofan are hard to verify because aid agencies say they have no access and foreign journalists cannot travel there without permission. (Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Jon Boyle)