By Opheera McDoom

Khartoum - Divisions over Darfur's faltering peace process have provoked violence in Sudanese refugee camps, killing eight people and injuring dozens in the western region, officials and local residents said on Thursday.

The UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) confirmed three deaths on Wednesday night in Zalingei, West Darfur, after refugees who oppose the peace talks fought with others who support it.

Two residents told reporters that fighting erupted again in the Kalma camp in South Darfur on Thursday, killing five people.

Divisions are deep over the Qatar-based talks which have made little progress in the absence of the two main rebel groups. Mediators flew more than 400 civil society representatives to Doha, but the violence broke out after they returned to Darfur.

"Three people reported to be supporters or members of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), which recently signed a ceasefire agreement with the Government of the Sudan, were killed yesterday in Zalingei," UNAMID said in a statement.

UNAMID added that government authorities had arrested four people suspected of killing the three LJM men, a new rebel alliance with few troops in Darfur and the only group negotiating with the government.

Darfur rebels had accused the government of raiding the Zalingei camp on Wednesday.

Mostly non-Arab Darfuris took up arms in early 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglect. It responded by mobilising mostly Arab militias accused of a campaign of rape, murder and looting which created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

About two million people squat in Darfur's miserable camps, raising frustrations to a dangerously high level.

The two main Darfur rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), led by Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) are not at the Doha talks.

Trouble also broke out in Kalma on Thursday, the second time in a week that violence has engulfed the camp which is home to 100 000 Darfuris.

"Five people were killed from my family and there are so many injured," Salaheddin Abdallah Hassan, who attended the Doha talks, told Reuters from the camp.

Both Kalma and the camps around Zalingei have traditionally been SLA strongholds.

The surge in violence underscores the collapse of law and order in the massive region despite UNAMID's presence, the largest UN-funded peacekeeping force in the world at full strength. It is almost 80 percent deployed.

UNAMID also said a Russian pilot who went missing after the government grounded a helicopter earlier this week had returned safely and was being debriefed.

Also on Thursday a UNAMID patrol was ambushed in West Darfur by unknown armed men, but troops chased the attackers away. - Reuters