Clashes between government forces and two rebel groups in Sudan’s war-torn western region of Darfur have killed at least 21 people on the two sides, the army said on Friday.
“Soldiers travelling on the road between Nyala and El-Fasher reached an area between Menwashi and Tiknir where they were blocked by members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army of Minni Minnawi [SLA-Minnawi],” army spokesperson Sawarmi Khaled Saad told Agence France-Presse.
“Fighting broke out in which 13 rebels were killed and we lost eight men.”
Neither of the rebel groups, which have been fighting alongside each other since last month, nor the UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), were immediately able to confirm any casualties.
But a spokesperson for the Abdelwahid Nur faction of the SLA (SLA-Abdelwahid) said there had been deadly fighting in the area of South Darfur.
“From 6pm yesterday up to [midday] today, we clashed with the Sudanese army in Jebra, 50km northeast of Nyala,” Nimir Ibrahim said by satellite phone from Darfur.
“Three of our people were killed and two were injured. The SAF [army] lost a number of people,” he said, adding that the rebel group had taken 11 army vehicles.
JEM, the region’s most heavily armed rebel group, announced last month that the SLA-Abdelwahid had also joined the newly formed Darfuri rebel alliance, although a top SLA-Abdelwahid official said talks were still ongoing.
The head of the United Nations (UN) humanitarian mission in Sudan said on Thursday that the security situation in Darfur was improving.
The UN had previously said that at least 2 321 violent deaths were reported in Darfur in 2010.
Some diplomats have accused Sudan’s government of stepping up its offensive in the remote region while world attention has been focused on the independence referendum in South Sudan.
Last week saw a number of violent incidents in West Darfur.
On Saturday, gunmen killed two national security officials and a police officer in the town of Nertiti, according UNAMID.
Just days earlier three Bulgarian air crew on a helicopter carrying World Food Programme supplies were abducted.
At least 300 000 people have been killed in Darfur since the conflict erupted in 2003 when tribal fighters rose up against the central government, the UN says. Khartoum says 10 000 people have died in the conflict. — Sapa-AFP