Sudan rebels clash in ‘deadly battle’

“The government forces tried to attack SPLM positions on Friday in area called Silik,” southwest of Blue Nile state capital Damazin, Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesperson for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), said.

“But the SPLM defeated them and fighting continues in Bau locality,” he said, adding that the army had sustained “loss of lives and military hardware”.

“Because the fighting is going on, there are no final details of casualties,” he said.

Army spokesperson Sawarmi Khaled Saad rejected the claims, saying there was no fighting in Blue Nile state on Friday, and described the rebel assertions as “fabrication for the media”.

Access to the area is severely restricted, making independent verification of the claims difficult.

The SPLM-N insurgents fought alongside southern rebels during Sudan’s 22-year civil war, which ended in a 2005 peace deal and South Sudan’s independence last July.

The fighting in Blue Nile state erupted last September, as Khartoum moved to assert control over its territory following Southern secession, and after a similar conflict broke out in nearby South Kordofan.

Lodi said the rebels currently control more than 50% of the rural areas in Blue Nile state, although the Sudanese army remains in control of most of the towns.

The UN on Thursday said around 105 000 Sudanese had now fled from Blue Nile across the border into South Sudan, as well as 45 000 from South Kordofan, and described the growing exodus of terrified civilians as “extremely worrying”. – Sapa-AFP

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