Sudan rebels say government burns villages in attack

May 29, 2001 (Reuters)

Sudanese rebels said on Tuesday that government forces burned 14 villages in a failed raid earlier this week on rebel positions in the Nuba mountains.

A statement faxed to Reuters in Cairo said Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) forces held off an attack on several fronts in South Kordofan state over the last two days, capturing the government garrison of Umm Sardaba.

"The government forces burned 14 villages and more than 5,000 an attempt to evict the local residents with a scorched earth policy," it said.

There was no immediate comment from the government. The SPLA statement did not say how many casualties each side suffered in fighting it described as "fierce".

The SPLA has been fighting since 1983 for autonomy in south Sudan from Islamist- dominated governments in the Muslim, Arabic-speaking north.

South Kordofan state, 540 km (340 miles) southwest of Khartoum, has often seen fighting in the civil war, which has cost up to two million lives and displaced four million people.