Heavy fighting rages in Sudan's Darfur region
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Rebels have seized two towns in Darfur, international peacekeepers quoted a local leader as saying, as fighting raged in at least two parts of the troubled region of western Sudan.
Sudan's military denied the report, but the UNAMID peacekeeping force said Central Darfur's governor Youssef Tibin had told it armed groups had seized the towns of Golo and Rockero in the Jebel Marra area.
"He also stated that approximately 850 families had been displaced and fled to Nertiti village as a result of the fighting, while others are believed to be wandering in the mountains seeking safety," the U.N./African Union force said in a statement.
Tibin could not be reached for comment but Sudan's army denied the government had lost control of the area, the state-linked Sudanese Media Center (SMC) said on its website.
The army repulsed an attack in the same area by rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction led by Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, killing more than 30 fighters, the Media Center quoted an army spokesman as saying.
Ibrahim el-Hillu, spokesman for the SLA faction, said however his forces were in complete control of the Golo area after repulsing an army attack.
"Many government soldiers were killed," he said.
In separate violence, fighting broke out between the Rizeigat and Bani Hussein tribes on Saturday over who should be allowed to use a gold mine near Kabkabiya in North Darfur.
"A row between some individuals has turned into battles ... Fighting is still ongoing," Omar Ali, a leader of the Bani Hussein tribe, told Reuters.
"It's a tragedy. I don't have numbers yet but I can say a large number of people have been killed and wounded so far."
Mohammed Aissa Aliu, a Rizeigat leader, said elders of his tribe were trying to stop the fighting. "We have sent a delegation to mediate," he said. "The situation is unacceptable."
Sudan's state radio said authorities closed the mine on Wednesday.
The deployment of the world's largest peacekeeping force, UNAMID, has failed to stop violence in Darfur where mostly non-Arab insurgents took up arms in 2003 to fight against what they call the neglect of the region by the Arab-dominated government.
Fighting between rebels and government forces has recently picked up and banditry has also spread.
The three main rebel groups have formed an alliance with insurgents in two states bordering the newly-seceded country of South Sudan, forcing Sudan's army to fight in three places at once.
Sudan is also struggling with a budget crisis due to the loss of most oil production with the southern secession of 2011.
Human rights groups have accused Sudan's government of arming Arab tribes like the Rizeigat when it moved to quell the Darfur rebellion in 2003.
Diplomats say Sudan failed to disarm allied tribes as required under an agreement between Sudan and small rebel groups in 2011. Larger rebel groups have refused to join the deal.
The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other Sudanese officials for masterminding war crimes in Darfur. They deny the charges and refuse to recognise the court.
Human rights groups and the United Nations estimate that hundreds of thousands of people have died in Darfur's conflict, although exact tolls are controversial. The government says around 10,000 people have died. (Writing by Ulf Laessing; editing by Andrew Roche)
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