KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese army troops have pushed out rebels who had seized control of a town in the western Darfur region, a state-linked media website said on Wednesday, the latest violent incident in the troubled area.
The two Darfur rebel factions — the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) factions led by Minni Minnawi and Abdelwahid Nour — had captured Girayda in southern Darfur on Tuesday as part of their campaign to topple President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s government.
“The armed forces were able to defeat remnants of Minnawi’s forces from the area of Girayda in South Darfur province after they stormed it yesterday with the purpose of stealing, looting and terrorising people,” the Sudanese Media Centre said.
It quoted the spokesman for South Darfur province, Ahmed el-Tayeb, as saying nine Sudanese army soldiers has been killed and that combing operations were still going on to “cleanse the area”. The Sudanese army spokesman was not immediately available for comment to confirm the deaths.
The two rebel factions had formed an alliance, known as the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, with other fighters in Sudan’s southern border states last year.
Sudan accuses South Sudan, which gained independence from Khartoum last year, of secretly backing some rebels, an allegation Juba denies.
The two former civil war foes have clashed repeatedly in the past month along their shared 1,800 km (1,200 mile) border and remain locked in a conflict over oil revenues, border demarcation and citizenship that had threatened to escalate into a full-blown war.
A spokesman for the Minnawi faction rebels, Abdullah Mursal, denied the fighters had been pushed out.
“We are still here, this is not true, the government has not entered in Girayda,” he said.
But the African Union/U.N. mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said peacekeepers on patrol early on Wednesday had seen that “the armed movements had left”.
“Our patrol observed that several people had died and several were injured. There was widespread looting, fuel was stolen and a lot of businesses were damaged,” UNAMID spokesman Chris Cycmanick said.
Violence has subsided since mostly African insurgents in Darfur took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in 2003, but rebel and tribal fighting and banditry still plagues the territory.