KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudanese forces said late Monday that they had captured an area from rebels in the restive state of Blue Nile in fierce fighting that led to the deaths of 66 rebels and several government soldiers.
A statement by the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army/Movement-North, however, disputed the Sudanese Army's claims, saying its fighters had killed 86 soldiers, and a spokesman said the rebels still held the contested area, called Mufu.
The Sudanese government has been struggling to control territory in Blue Nile and other areas along the border with South Sudan. Fighting in Blue Nile broke out in June 2011, a month before South Sudan seceded from Sudan, when fighters once allied with rebels in the south refused to disarm.
Sudan claims that South Sudan is supporting the rebels north of the border, a charge South Sudan denies.
Fighting was also reported this week in the border state of South Kordofan, which has had more battles than Blue Nile. The Sudanese Media Center, a semiofficial news service believed to be close to Sudan's security apparatus, said the fighting along the badly marked border was between the Messeiriya tribe and the South Sudanese military and had left 23 people dead.
A resident of the area, who gave his name only as Yassir, confirmed the fighting, but he said it was unclear who was involved. Different tribes have historically clashed over grazing rights and water resources.
A spokesman for the South Sudanese Army, Philip Aguer, could not be reached for comment.
During the dry season, the Messeiriya, an Arab tribe, have historically moved south into what is now South Sudan to find more fertile grazing lands for their cattle. Unresolved issues between Sudan and South Sudan have stopped the migration this year, leaving thousands of cattle vulnerable.
The two countries remain at an impasse over issues like the creation of a buffer zone and what Sudan says is the South's support for the rebels. As a result, South Sudan still refuses to restart production of oil that flows through pipelines to the north and could aid the economies of both countries.
On Friday, the United States issued a statement urging "both sides to refrain immediately from any actions that could further destabilize the border areas between South Sudan and Sudan."world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.