Sudanese opposition forces have moved into a major town in North Kordofan state, residents said on Saturday, widening their anti-government offensive in one of their most audacious acts in years.
North Kordofan has been largely free from the rebel activity taking place in the Darfur region to its west, and South Kordofan to its south.
Residents of Umm Ruwaba, the second-largest town in North Kordofan, said an unidentified rebel group arrived Saturday morning on at least 20 vehicles.
They fired their weapons into the air, causing panic in the town but met no initial resistance from security forces, townspeople said.
"We just saw some drones in the air," one resident said.
"They started looting the market and are still here but we don't know which group they are from."
Other residents said the town's inhabitants cowered in their homes as the rebels shot up government buildings before withdrawing.
Sudan's main rebel movements from Darfur are grouped in the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) with insurgents from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Darfur's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) claimed on Saturday that SRF forces were in control of the eastern part of North Kordofan and the government was responding with air strikes around Umm Rawaba.
The army spokesman could not be reached.
Sudan rebels widen offensive, move into major town