Darfur rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement say they have clashed with pro-government forces in the region.

A rebel commander says the JEM forces fought off an ambush in Umm Baru in North Darfur Saturday by Sudanese armed forces and troops loyal to former rebel leader Minni Minnawi.

A spokesman for the joint United Nations - African Union mission in Darfur says the mission had heard reports of the fighting, but could not confirm them.

However, the spokesman said about 160 civilians from the area left their homes and moved toward the U.N. base in Umm Baru, saying they were fleeing violence.

The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died since 2003 in the conflict pitting Darfur's ethnic African rebels against the Arab-dominated government and government-backed militia. Sudan says the death toll is closer to 10,000.

The joint U.N.-A.U. peacekeeping force has about 15,000 troops on the ground in Darfur.  The force is tasked mainly with protecting civilians in the war-torn region.  It also contributes to security for humanitarian operations.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.