Sudanese rebels on Sunday struck a town near the border of troubled South Kordofan state, where witnesses confirmed fighting was underway.
"We were awakened at 6:00 am by continuous loud explosions and the sound of shooting," said a resident of Abu Zabad, in North Kordofan state. He asked not to be named for security reasons.
"Armed men in Land Cruisers drove into the town and targeted a SAF compound and the police station," he said, referring to the Sudan Armed Forces.
The town, in an agricultural region, is home to a small military facility.
Gunfire could still be heard at about midday when another resident spoke by telephone from under his bed.
He said he had seen the rebels arrive earlier at the local market, firing their weapons in the air.
They appeared exhausted, thirsty and in need of fuel, the resident said.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said it "took control" of the small community which is a few kilometres (miles) from South Kordofan state, where rebels have been fighting for two years.
"We control all government buildings there," JEM spokesman Gibril Adam Bilal told AFP.
Sudan's army spokesman could not immediately comment on the incident.
Abu Zabad, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of the North Kordofan capital El Obeid, is alongside the country's main east-west railway line.
It is also about 60 kilometres from Dilling town in South Kordofan, where JEM rebels and fighters from the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North last week claimed their first major attack of the dry season.
They said they ambushed a military convoy near Dilling, leaving "many dead bodies".
The army has not commented on that incident.
The rebels belong to the Sudan Revolutionary Front alliance which seeks to topple the Khartoum regime and install a government more representative of the country's diversity.
Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein told parliament last week that his forces were commencing an operation to crush insurgents in South Kordofan and the western Darfur region over the next few months.
Fighting has occasionally spread into North Kordofan, most seriously in April when the rebel alliance launched coordinated strikes on several areas including Umm Rawaba, the state's second-largest town.
Analysts called the attack a humiliation for the authorities.