Clashes between rival tribes in Sudan's western region of Darfur on Wednesday killed at least 20 people despite a peace deal agreed last month, a tribal chief said.

Sheikh Merdes of the Maaliya tribe told AFP by telephone that "clashes broke out today when a group from the Rezeigat tribe attacked us in the Bakhit region" some 70 kilometres (45 miles) east of East Darfur capital Ed Daein.

"There was fighting in which the other side was supported by government vehicles," he charged.

Merdes spoke of "20 dead and 24 wounded" in the Maaliya camp in the fighting which lasted more than four hours.

A Rezeigat spokesman confirmed that clashes had taken place, but was unable to give a toll.

"Today's fighting was over the theft of some cattle," Edan AbuBakr told AFP, also by telephone. "I don't know the number of dead and injured on our side."

A medic at Ed Daein hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, spoke of "dozens of wounded" being brought in, swamping the emergency services.

A Rezeigat fighter told AFP that four members of his family were killed and four wounded, and said government forces intervened to end the fighting.

On August 22 the rival tribes had signed a document for "peace, co-existence and cessation of hostilities," the official SUNA news agency reported at the time.

Tribal disputes in Sudan have been driven by conflicts over resources, including land, water and mineral rights.

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