More than 30,000 flee fighting in Sudan's Darfur: U.N.

KHARTOUM Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:18pm EST

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - More than 30,000 people have fled during two weeks of fighting in Sudan's Darfur region, the United Nations said after some of the worst clashes between government troops, rebels and rival tribes reported there for months.

Conflict has raged in Darfur, a vast arid region in the west of Sudan, since 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against the Arab government in Khartoum, accusing it of political and economic marginalization.

Fighting between the army and rebels - and divisions among the insurgents - have scuppered years of international mediation and several rounds of peace talks.

Violence has ebbed from the peaks of 2003-4 but has picked up in recent weeks and banditry has also spread.

Around 30,000 people fled their homes in Golo and Guldo towns to escape two weeks of fighting that began on December 24 in Darfur's Jebel Marra area, prized for its fertile land, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report.

Some 2,800 people fled to a camp in Nertiti in central Darfur, already home to 42,000 displaced people, the report said late on Thursday, citing figures from the government and a community leader.

Rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction led by Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nur have seized the towns of Golo and Rockero, Darfur's international peacekeeping force UNAMID quoted a local leader as saying on Wednesday. The government denied losing the territory and said it had repelled a rebel attack.

Several thousand people also fled when fighting broke out this week between two Arab tribes over the use of a gold mine in the Jebel Amer area of North Darfur, UNAMID said on Friday.

"The fighting has ... resulted in a number of casualties, looting, burning of nearby villages, and the displacement of thousands of civilians forced to flee towards Kabkabiya, Saraf Omra and Al Sereif towns," UNAMID said in statement.

OIL STATE FIGHTING

On another front, Sudan's army told state news agency SUNA it had repelled an attack from SPLM-North rebels in the country's main oil-producing state of South Kordofan on Friday.

South Kordofan borders Darfur and rebels from both regions, who all complain of government discrimination, have formed a alliance vowing to topple Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Armed forces spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid said SPLM-North (Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North) forces had attacked the army in the area of al-Hamra. "Fifty of their forces were killed," he said.

Yasir Arman, one of the exiled leaders of the SPLM-North, declined to comment, telling Reuters he needed to check first with the military command on the ground.

Events in Darfur and South Kordofan are hard to verify as Sudan restricts travel by journalists and diplomats.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Bashir and other Sudanese officials to face charges of masterminding war crimes in Darfur. They deny the charges and refuse to recognise the court.

Human rights groups and the United Nations estimate hundreds of thousands of people have died in Darfur's decade-long conflict, although the toll is disputed by the government which says around 10,000 people have been killed.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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