updated 10/27/2004 1:28:06 PM ET 2004-10-27T17:28:06

Rebels accused Sudan’s government of launching fresh bombing raids that killed 10 people in the troubled Darfur region, dealing another blow to peace talks that have so far failed to even set an agenda.

Lt. Gen. Mohammed Ismail, the deputy chief of staff of the Sudanese army, denied the rebels’ accusations, saying there had been no fresh violence in the eastern Darfur town of Allaiat, a key base of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army.

SLA spokesman Mahgoub Hussain said government forces began bombing the town early Tuesday and air-raids continued Wednesday.

“Until now they are bombing,” Hussain said, just before talks resumed Wednesday in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

He said the dead included “about 10 civilians, including one lady who was pregnant.”

Both sides reported fighting for several days last week in Allaiat, and rebels said at least 7,000 people had been displaced. Sudan’s army said then they were only defending their positions.

The fresh violence was sure to cast a shadow over the third day of talks in Abuja, where about 100 delegates gathered around a large oval table at an international conference center.

Talks broke off early Tuesday when rebels refused face-to-face talks with the government, demanding instead that the African Union meets separately with both sides to draft an agenda.

An earlier round of peace talks in Nigeria ended without agreement in September, after rebels refused to sign a humanitarian accord giving aid organizations wider access to refugees. Rebels insist they will not sign the already-drafted accord without an accompanying security agreement.

The crisis in Sudan’s western region began in February 2003 when rebels rose up against the Arab-dominated government, claiming discrimination in the distribution of scarce resources. Pro-government militias called Janjaweed reacted by attacking Darfur villages.

The United Nations has called Darfur the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and said it has claimed 70,000 lives through disease and hunger since March, while 1.5 million have fled their homes since February 2003. No reliable figures are available for those killed by violence.

A key sticking point in reaching a security deal is a government demand that insurgents disarm. The Sudan Liberation Army and a second rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, insist the Janjaweed must first be disarmed.

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