By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's army said on Wednesday it had retaken two rebel-held towns in an eastern part of the Darfur region where thousands of civilians have been displaced this month by renewed fighting.
War broke out in the western region of Darfur over a decade ago and fighting has persisted despite two peace accords and the presence of UNAMID, the world's largest peacekeeping mission.
Army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad was quoted by state news agency SUNA as saying the army had "liberated" the towns of Muhajeria and Labado, in East Darfur state, from Sudan Liberation Army rebels loyal to veteran fighter Minni Minnawi.
A spokesman for Minnawi told Reuters that the rebels withdrew for the safety of their civilian residents after two days of clashes outside the two towns. Abdullah Mursal said the Sudanese Armed Forces bombed the town of Labado before the rebel forces withdrew on Tuesday.
The UNAMID force said 18,000 civilians had camped outside its bases in the towns since fighting broke out between the army and the rebels on April 6.
"The lives of thousands of displaced civilians, who are still waiting for humanitarian aid, are at stake here," UNAMID representative Mohamed Ibn Chambas said in a statement released on Tuesday.
The statement said four civilians were killed in the battle for Labado. A UNAMID spokeswoman told Reuters on Wednesday that she did not have updated figures since the army recaptured the town of Muhajeria earlier in the day.
The statement from the army spokesman did not cite any deaths in the fighting and he was not immediately available to comment on the UNAMID account.
(Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Michael Roddy)