June 3, 2011 / 6:51 AM / 8 years ago

Darfur rebels say clash with government troops

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese government troops fought with rebels in the western Darfur region on Wednesday and Thursday, killing at least two fighters, spokesmen for two separate rebel groups said.

Violence in Darfur, where mostly non-Arab rebels are fighting government troops backed by largely Arab militias, has fallen from its peak in 2003 and 2004 but a surge in attacks since December has forced tens of thousands to flee.

“Yesterday we lost two men and five were injured,” Ibrahim al-Helwu, a spokesman of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), told Reuters.

The rebels were ambushed as they were heading from southern to northern Darfur in a convoy, Helwu said. There were further clashes on Thursday, but it was not clear how many troops were killed or wounded, he added.

A spokesman for the northern army was not immediately available to comment on the report, which could not be independently verified.

Helwu said rebels from his group killed 17 government soldiers and wounded 21 during the fighting on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Arab-led rebel United Revolutionary Force Front (URFF) also reported clashes between the group’s forces and government troops on Wednesday and Thursday in the Kebkabiya region.

“Yesterday, the URFF was fighting against the government in eastern Kebkabiya, and this morning,” Alhadi Agabaldour said. “We have some wounded,” he added, without giving a figure.

Qatar has hosted Darfur peace talks that have been delayed by rebel divisions and continued military operations on the ground as Khartoum has gradually reasserted control over major towns and other previously rebel-held areas.

Darfur’s most powerful rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, suspended meetings in Qatar in April in protest at Khartoum’s plan to hold a referendum in the region.

Sudan divided Darfur up into smaller states last month, which rebels described as a bid to curb their influence and strengthen central control from Khartoum.

The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people have died during the conflict in Darfur, while Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of masterminding genocide and war crimes in Darfur.

Separately, an official in the Abyei region said on Thursday nearly 100 civilians have been killed since Khartoum seized the territory on May 21. Both north and south Sudan, which is scheduled to secede on July 9, claim the region.

Violence in Abyei has raised fears north and south could return to full-blown conflict, which could further destabilise the region.

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