Rebels in Sudan's Darfur claim to capture tank in battle

KHARTOUM Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:18pm EST

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Rebels in Sudan's western Darfur region said on Saturday they had successfully attacked a large government convoy in the territory's north, capturing a tank and other military vehicles.

Sudan's armed forces spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the report.

Conflict has raged in the remote territory since insurgents took up arms against government forces there in 2003, complaining Khartoum had neglected the vast, arid region.

The United Nations has said that as many as 300,000 people may have died in the Darfur fighting, where the Sudanese government mobilized troops and mostly Arab militia. The government has put the death toll at about 10,000.

Despite the presence of the world's largest peacekeeping mission, fighting between Sudan's armed forces and rebels has continued, alongside banditry and tribal clashes.

On Saturday the Justice and Equality Movement, regarded as the region's most militarily powerful rebel group, said it carried out an attack in concert with forces of the Sudan Liberation Army headed by Minni Minnawi.

In a statement, the rebels said they scored a "very big victory over government forces and militias" travelling in a convoy of nearly 200 vehicles between the settlements of Shangil Tobaya and Umm Zerega in North Darfur.

The rebels said they inflicted "heavy losses" on the government forces but did not give details.

Sudan's military spokesman did not respond to phone calls seeking comment, and the report could not be verified independently. The two sides often issue conflicting claims about the fighting.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other officials on charges of war crimes in Darfur. They deny the accusations.

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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