Rebels in Sudan's Darfur region say violence is spiraling out of control in northern Darfur, sending civilians fleeing for cover. More than 50 civilians have reportedly been killed in the area since attacks by government forces and Janjaweed militias began late last week.
Rebels say at least seven civilians, including women and children, had been killed in attacks Thursday on the village of Kutum in northern Darfur.
Ibrahim Al Hilu, a commander with the rebel Sudan Liberation Army, spoke to VOA by phone from northern Darfur, where he said attacks were still under way.
Al Hilu said civilians in and around Kutum were fleeing into the surrounding hills for cover, while militias burned houses and looted property.
"They are burning everything; especially food stocks of civilians on the farms, animals, everything, killing women, children, everybody," he said. "Now the situation is getting very, very bad. Now, now, they are burning everything. They are destroying the area. The people fled from the area. They are now in the hills. It is a bad situation, no food, no water, nothing."
Hilu told VOA that the area had been attacked by men on horse and camel and reported seeing hundreds of government vehicles. Sudanese military officials were not immediately available for comment.
Sudan has denied working with the Janjaweed, and claims it is trying to disarm the militias.
Hilu said the African Union troops currently monitoring Darfur had been notified of the continuing violence but had not yet arrived.
The AU has only about 7,000 troops on the ground in all of Darfur, a region the size of France. The mission has also struggled with a weak mandate that critics charge does not allow it to protect civilians.
On Wednesday, in Addis Ababa, during a high-level meeting of officials from the U.N., the African Union, the European Union and the Arab League, Sudan said it would agree in principle to allow U.N. troops to support the struggling African Union force.
But Sudan did not indicate what form U.N. support would take and has previously said it will only allow the U.N. to take a secondary role, insisting that the AU remain in command of the force.
The Sudanese government has insisted that violence in Darfur has been exaggerated by the west and claims much of the territory is secure.
The three-year Darfur conflict began when rebels attacked government positions complaining that Darfur remained undeveloped due to neglect by the Khartoum government.
Tens of thousands of people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced by the fighting in Darfur and eastern Chad.