The Sudanese army said it killed 200 rebels while repelling an attack in Darfur, the deadliest single military operation reported in the war-torn region since fighting started there four years ago.
The bloodshed came amid intensified efforts to reach an agreement on the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur as Washington warned Khartoum had until year's end to accept or face coercive action.
In a statement quoted by the state-run SUNA news agency, the army also said that 20 of its troops were wounded during the fighting, which took place in northern Darfur on Wednesday.
The army charged that rebels from the National Redemption Front (NRF) attempted to launch an assault on the town of Kutum.
Government troops repelled the attack near Shak al-Nakhra, 12 km south of the town, and "killed 200 rebels, including two commanders, destroyed six cannons and 18 vehicles and seizing eight others," the statement said.
But an official of a smaller faction of the divided Sudan Liberation Movement rejected the toll given by the military and said only six rebels had been killed.
"The number of dead is only six," Ibrahim Ahmed Ibrahim told from London, and accused the Sudanese army of having "bombarded four villages".
If the army's version of the casualty toll were confirmed, Wednesday's fighting would be one of the deadliest single incidents reported this year in the troubled region.
It was the second time in five days the army said it had repelled a rebel attack, following another less deadly incident reported on December 17.