KHARTOUM - Rebels in Sudan's war-torn South Kordofan state claimed on Thursday to have shot down an Antonov bomber, which they said crashed in flames along the undemarcated border near South Sudan.
Sudan's military spokesman could not be reached for comment and neither could independent witnesses in the remote area, where access for journalists is restricted.
Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesman for the insurgent Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), said the plane, flying at a relatively low altitude, was hit by fire from a heavy machinegun late Wednesday afternoon.
"They shot at it until they saw the wing burning," Lodi said. "Some people in the mountain saw the plane burning."
The bomber finally crashed near Jau, more than 50 kilometres (30 miles) further south, on the disputed border with South Sudan but in South Kordofan territory, Lodi said.
"It was burning all night," residents there reported after hearing an explosion, he added.
Rebels were on the way to the crash site to take photographs, he said, adding it was at least the second Antonov downed by the rebels since fighting began in June last year.
The insurgents have reported an upsurge in government bombing and fighting since Sudan and South Sudan in September signed a deal for a demilitarised border buffer zone designed to cut support for the insurgency.
The ethnic and religious-minority SPLM-N belongs to an alliance of Sudanese rebels seeking to overthrow the Islamist Khartoum regime.
SPLM-N were allies of southern insurgents during Sudan's 22-year civil war, which ended with a 2005 peace deal that led to South Sudan's independence in July last year.
Sudan has accused South Sudan of supporting the SPLM-N, a charge which analysts believe despite denials by the government in Juba. The rebels are also fighting in Sudan's Blue Nile state.
More than 900,000 people are estimated to be displaced or severely affected by the fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the UN says, noting reports of serious food shortages and lack of adequate health care in rebel-held areas.
Sudan has cited security worries in tightly restricting the operations of foreign aid agencies and says there is no humanitarian crisis in the area.