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Sudan rebels claim to have downed warplane, killed 10 government troops in ambush

Sudanese rebels said Thursday that they ambushed a military patrol, killing 10 soldiers, and shot down a government warplane after its bombs killed two civilians in an embattled southern region.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North said in a statement that the Antonov bomber was downed Wednesday by rebels in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan state.

The rebels also claimed in a separate statement that they ambushed a Sudanese military patrol Wednesday in South Kordofan on a major highway linking the villages of Angarko and Hajar-Jawad, killing 10 soldiers. The rebels said they destroyed four government vehicles and captured weapons from soldiers in the ambush. One rebel fighter was killed.

The claims could not be independently verified. Sudanese officials were not available for comment.

The rebel group has been battling the Sudanese government in South Kordofan, on the border with newly independent South Sudan, since June of last year. They also fought against the government in the decades-long civil war that resulted in South Sudan's secession.

The fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state has forced tens of thousands of people to flee to a refugee camp in South Sudan.

Rebel spokesman Arnu Ngutulu said the attack on the military aircraft was in response to government strikes on villages in the area.

"We would say that it has become a daily activity for the Khartoum regime to carry out aerial bombardment targeting local residences," he said in the statement.

Elsewhere in Sudan, the international peacekeeping force in the country's Darfur region said a civilian-military team traveled to the village of Sigili where a Nov. 2 attack killed 10 people. The U.N. and African Union peacekeeping force, UNAMID, was blocked by the Sudanese military from reaching the area last week.

In a statement Thursday, UNAMID said that they were able to reach the village located in the Shawa area in North Darfur state on Tuesday and found it "completely deserted, with apparent signs of an abrupt departure."

Homes had been burnt and animals killed, according to UNAMID. Ammunition was also found in different sites across the village.

The U.N. group did not say who was behind the killings. Sudan's military spokesman was not available for comment.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, dedicated to human rights issues in Sudan, said residents of the area accuse the Sudanese government.

The group said witnesses accused military forces and militias of tying up and shooting dead 10 members of the Zaghawa tribe in Sigili, and then driving over the bodies with military vehicles, before looting several farms and homes. The organization listed the names of the deceased, who ranged between 18 and 32 years old.

It says hundreds of people have been camped out in North Darfur's capital city of el-Fasher for nearly a week to protest the attack.

Khartoum has been battling rebel groups in Darfur since 2003. More than 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict since rebels took up arms against the central government, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. Violence has tapered off, but clashes continue and peacekeepers remain a target.