Sudanese rebels have seized an army compound in the Darfur region, the insurgents said on Saturday, after peacekeepers expressed concern over escalating violence.
The pre-dawn attack happened on Friday about five kilometers (three miles) northeast of Kebkabiya in North Darfur state, said Ibrahim al-Hillu, spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Army’s Abdelwahid Nur faction.
“We captured the compound and all the equipment inside, with five on our side wounded,” he told AFP from his base in France.
Hillu added that the rebels then repulsed a government counter-attack and are now “counting their bodies”.
Sudan’s army spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Kebkabiya is about 150 kilometers west of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state where violence has surged.
Earlier this month, the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said “escalating violence has become a matter of grave concern”.
Since July, civilians have been increasingly at risk from inter-communal fighting, harassment by militia groups and sporadic clashes between rebels and government troops, particularly in North Darfur, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in October.
The Nur faction has several hundred combatants and a “sphere of influence” limited to the mountainous Jebel Marra area, south of Kebkabiya, said a July report by the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based independent research project.
The fertile Jebel Marra is home to the non-Arab Fur people who gave their name to Darfur (Land of the Fur).
Government military operations and air attacks have regularly targeted the area, the Small Arms Survey said.
Government forces are now massing for a new attack on eastern Jebel Marra, according to Hillu.
Although down from its peak, violence persists in Darfur nine years after Nur and other ethnic minority rebels rose against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, which they want to overthrow.
Impoverished Darfur is also dealing with a rare outbreak of yellow fever that health officials say is suspected of killing 127 people in the region since early September.