Intense fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan between rebels and government troops

KHARTOUM (AFP) - Fierce fighting has erupted between Sudanese government troops and rebels near Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, with both sides giving contradictory figures of casualties.

Sunday's clashes pitched government troops against fighters from the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of three rebel groups, in the Dandur area 15km from Kadugli, Sudanese army spokesman Colonel Sawarmi Khaled Saad told AFP.

He said government forces had captured two T-55 tanks and killed 70 rebels.

But a spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), part of the SRF, denied Khartoum's version.

He said five rebels died in the fighting and that they had also shot down a Sudanese army helicopter.

Khartoum has been battling the SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, two areas along the border with South Sudan, since summer 2011.

South Sudan armed and trained the SPLM-N when it was part of the South's rebel force during the 1983-2005 civil war, but says it cut military ties before the South's independence in July 2011.

The SPLM-N says it is fighting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's government to put in place a government that respects the rights of the country's ethnic minorities.