Clashes between Sudanese troops and rebels erupted in Sudan’s Blue Nile state, both sides said on Tuesday, as anti-government protests in the country continued.
The Sudanese Media Centre, which is close to the security apparatus, said late Monday that troops had repelled a rebel attack against the Diem Mansour area south of Kurmuk, which is near the Ethiopian border.
It quoted Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad as saying rebels had suffered heavy losses.
“SPLM has launched an attack... south of Kurmuk,” and fighting continues, said Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).
He told AFP on Tuesday that the rebels began on Monday their effort to retake the area.
The SPLM-N, which operates in the oil producing states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile has voiced support for the street protests that started last month and promises a cease fire should the Khartoum regime fall.
Tough austerity measures imposed on citizens has resulted in the protests demanding the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir. The head of state is wanted by the International Criminal Court.
Meanwhile, the fighting had begun in September between the army and forces loyal to rebel leader Malik Agar, who was then the elected SPLM-N Blue Nile governor. The SPLM-N has been fighting a similar war in South Kordofan state since June last year.
More than 200,000 refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile have crossed into South Sudan and Ethiopia, and thousands more “in a desperate state” are following each day, United Nations emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos said last week.
She said she was “deeply concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian situation”, and added hundreds of thousands of people remain trapped in the conflict zone with little access to food, water, shelter and medical services.
Sudan accuses South Sudan of supporting the SPLM-N, a charge which foreign analysts believe despite denials by the government in Juba.
The Sudanese government has accepted a plan put forward by the UN, African Union and Arab League to get aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
But Amos said the Khartoum government “has laid out operational conditions that do not allow for the delivery of assistance by neutral parties in SPLM-N controlled areas.”
The African Union welcomed Sudan’s acceptance of the plan and urged “all those responsible to ensure that it is effectively and fully implemented without further delay.”
The AU said it is ready to send personnel for joint humanitarian assessment teams, as well as monitors.
Last year the SPLM-N joined insurgents from the Darfur region in a Revolutionary Front to overthrow the Khartoum regime.