, KHARTOUM, Sep 3 – A Darfur rebel group said on Friday that the Sudanese army had launched a major offensive against territory under its control killing 74 people, most of them civilians.
An army spokesman denied that government troops had been involved in any fighting with the rebels.
"On Thursday, from 2 pm (1100 GMT) until nightfall, the army attacked Tabra district in the southeast of Jebel Marra (Darfur\’s fertile central plateau) and the offensive resumed this morning," said Ibrahim al-Helu, spokesman for the hardline wing of the Sudan Liberation Army loyal to Abdelwahid Nur.
"Seventy-four people were killed and 152 wounded, most of them civilians," Helu told AFP.
But an army spokesman reached by AFP denied that troops had been involved in any fighting.
"These claims are completely baseless. There have been no clashes between us and them," said Sawarmi Khaled Saad.
The joint UN-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping force which patrols Darfur said it had also received reports of dozens killed in an attack, but was still trying to reach the spot.
"We received reports that yesterday around 3 o\’clock (1200 GMT), men on camels and horses entered a market 31 kilometres (19 miles) northwest of Tawila (in northern Darfur) and started firing randomly at people," said UNAMID spokesman Chris Cycmanick.
"Dozens of civilians are reported to have been killed," he said.
Since the ethnic minority rebels rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in 2003, around 300,000 people have died in Darfur and 2.7 million fled their homes, according to the United Nations.
The government says 10,000 people have been killed.