Darfur rebels clashed with government troops in South Darfur, marking a resumption of fighting after heavy rains had largely subdued hostilities in Sudan’s war-torn west.
In the Sudanese capital, the government intensified a crackdown on Darfuri activists, arresting a journalist from the independent al-Sahafa daily, the editor said.
Darfur jumped onto international agendas after a 2003 counter-insurgency campaign sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. More than 2 million people fled a campaign of murder, rape and looting dubbed genocide by Washington. Khartoum denies any genocide took place, Reuters reports.
Round after round of peace talks have failed to secure a lasting truce because of rebel divisions and continued military operations.
Sudan has gradually reasserted control over much of the region and led a rapprochement with neighbouring Chad, isolating pockets of rebel forces largely cut off from support.
“The rebels attacked a commercial convoy…and the Central Reserve Police protecting the convoy engaged them, suffering several losses,” Sudan’s Ministry of Interior said in a statement.
Senior JEM commander Suleiman Sandal told Reuters from Darfur the government had attacked them in the east of South Darfur state and they had routed the attackers.
“We have only a few injured,” he said.
A fragile rebel coalition with few troops on the ground is talking to Khartoum in Qatar-based talks. JEM and the other main rebels, the Sudan Liberation Army, refuse direct talks although JEM went to Doha for consultations last month.
Washington criticised Sudan for closing down the offices of Darfuri-focused Radio Dabanga and a pro-democracy group in Khartoum and arresting 13 staffers over the weekend.
On Wednesday the editor-in-chief of the independent al-Sahafa paper said people from the National Intelligence and Security Services had come to the paper’s offices and arrested prominent Darfuri journalist Jaafar al-Sibki.
“As yet we don’t know why he was arrested or where he is being held,” al-Nour Ahmed al-Nour said.
Darfur has been overshadowed by the international focus on a southern referendum on secession on January 9, which is likely to split Africa’s largest country and create the world’s newest nation state.
Some analysts warn southern independence could lead to secessionist calls in other parts of Sudan, including Darfur.
The United Nations estimates some 300,000 people have died in Darfur, a conflict separate to the north-south war. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes and genocide there, the first time it has indicted a sitting head of state.
Sudan says the Western media has exaggerated the conflict, saying only 10,000 died. It says the ICC has no jurisdiction in Darfur.