Sustained fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state has killed several dozen government troops and five rebels, the insurgents claimed on Sunday after the army said it repulsed them.
The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) said "fighting is still continuing inside Al Moreib," a village in Rashad district of northeastern South Kordofan.
The rebels first reported a battle in Al Moreib on Friday, when they accused the government of attacking and looting the area. Two other Rashad-area villages had earlier been attacked by government soldiers and militia, they said.
Late on Saturday the army said it had "clashed with the rebels and drove them outside the area" where they had been "terrorising and intimidating" residents.
It said one soldier and more than two dozen rebels were killed.
Access to the region is restricted, making verification of casualty claims difficult.
Ethnic minority insurgents of the SPLM-N have been fighting in South Kordofan since June last year and in Blue Nile state since September.
They were allies of southern rebels during Sudan's 22-year civil war, which ended in a 2005 peace deal and South Sudan's independence in July last year.
Sudan accuses South Sudan of supporting SPLM-N, a charge which analysts believe despite denials by the government in Juba.
The number of people affected by the fighting has more than doubled since December, according to UN figures, and now stands at more than 650,000.
The UN has expressed concern for months about a worsening humanitarian situation in the war zone, where Khartoum cited security concerns in tightly restricting the operations of foreign aid agencies.
But in early August Khartoum signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Union, Arab League and UN to allow for humanitarian access throughout South Kordofan and Blue Nile -- including in rebel-held areas.
A similar memorandum has been reached with the rebels but no start date has been announced for the aid operation.
The rebels said on Friday that the attacks around Al Moreib aimed to stymie the international aid plan but a senior ruling party official called the accusation false, saying the government is committed to allowing relief into the war zone.© ANP/AFP