Sudanese troops attack Darfur rebels; 27 killed

Sudan's army has attacked remnants of a divided rebel movement in the western Darfur region, setting off clashes that killed 25 of the fighters and two government soldiers, a military spokesman said Friday.

After eight years of fighting in Darfur, the army is still trying to clear pockets of rebel fighters in the vast desert region. The conflict began in 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government they accuse of discrimination and neglect. The U.N. says 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes.

In Thursday's fighting, Sudanese soldiers attacked several locations held by rebels in the Jebel Marra area, "destroying rebel forces in a battle which lasted for two hours," said army spokesman Sawarmy Khalid.

The spokesman said the assaults were part of a military push to open up roads and secure villages in eastern Jebel Marra and drive out remnants of the Sudan Liberation Movement, which is split into two rival factions.

The main faction is led by one of the most influential rebel leaders, Abdelwahid Nur, who lives in exile in France and has repeatedly refused to join peace talks. Nur says the government must first bring security to Darfur and disarm government-allied militias.