KHARTOUM: Insurgents in one of Sudan's conflict-torn border regions said they shot down a government drone doing reconnaissance in rebel-held territory on Tuesday, but the army said the aircraft crashed because of a technical failure.
The Sudanese Revolutionary Front, an alliance of diverse rebels who want to overthrow Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, said they shot down the aircraft at 11:20am (0820 GMT) in the Jau area.
Jau is a disputed territory on the poorly-drawn boundary between Sudan's South Kordofan state and South Sudan, which seceded in July under a 2005 peace deal.
"The aircraft was flying in liberated territory on a reconnaissance mission, and as it entered the military camps, (rebel) anti-aircraft weapons confronted it," the rebels said in a statement, listing Darfur's Justice and Equality Movement as one of the rebel groups involved.
It said the drone had carried "1-3-7R031" as an identification sign. A separate statement by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, another rebel group involved in the fighting, said the aircraft appeared to be made in Iran.
Al-Sawarmi Khalid, Sudan's armed forces spokesman, later said the military had lost a drone, but denied it was shot down.
"Today we lost a drone which was part of a training mission between the Trojy and White Lake regions in South Kordofan," he said. A statement carried by the state news agency attributed the crash to a "technical failure."
Khalid had earlier denied that the military had lost a drone.
Fighting broke out in Sudan's South Kordofan state in June last year and later spread to Blue Nile state. The regions are home to tens of thousands of fighters who fought alongside the south during the civil war and have not disarmed.
The rebels accuse the government of provoking the fighting, while Khartoum says the insurgents are trying to spread chaos and overthrow the state with Juba's backing.
A separate insurgency in the western Darfur region has raged since 2003, when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms, accusing the Arab-dominated government of neglecting the remote territory.
Rebel groups from those regions said in November they were joining forces to create the Sudanese Revolutionary Front.
Fighting has continued in the country's peripheries since then, but conflicting reports from rebels and Sudan's government are difficult to verify because access by independent observers is limited.