At least 47 killed in Sudan army’s last Darfur stronghold el-Fasher

At least 30 civilians and 17 soldiers killed as the RSF press deeper towards the capital of North Darfur, says governor.

A woman and baby at the Zamzam displacement camp
El-Fasher has become home to tens of thousands of internally displaced people escaping the advance of the Rapid Support Forces across Darfur [File: Reuters]

Dozens of civilians and soldiers were killed in the latest bout of violence in the Sudanese city of el-Fasher on Friday, the local governor has said, as fighting in the country shows no sign of abating more than one year after the start of the conflict.

At least 30 civilians and 17 soldiers were killed in attacks in the city, Minni Minnawi said on Saturday. “This shows that the goal of those attacking el-Fasher is to exterminate the city.”

War in Sudan erupted in mid-April last year when a simmering feud between the leaders of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) exploded into violence.

The fighting has killed thousands of people, displaced almost 9 million, and led to a looming famine and grave humanitarian crisis. While the war started in the capital Khartoum, it spread to Darfur and unleashed ethnic violence, resurfacing old rivalries dating back to a brutal war in the early 2000s.

El-Fasher is the last domino yet to fall in Darfur as the RSF has taken control of nearly all the main cities of the western Sudanese state.

The RSF’s steady gains on the ground prompted ex-Darfur rebel leaders Minnawi and Jibril Ibrahim to break months of neutrality and declare in November last year their intention to join the war on the SAF’s side. The RSF grew out of what rebel groups call the “Janjaweed”, an Arab force that killed thousands of non-Arabs in Darfur during the war in the region, which began in 2003 and ended with a peace deal in 2020.

Since Minnawi and Ibrahim’s announcement, the Sudanese army has maintained a presence in the city, making it the last stronghold of forces fighting against the RSF.

“The [civilian] Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces and the groups that are sponsoring and funding it are waiting with patience for the fall of el-Fashir to declare the birth of their racial militia state on the skulls of the sons of Darfur in western Sudan,” Minnawi said referring to a civilian group accused of siding with the RSF.

Thousands of civilians are trapped because of the fighting. Alex de Waal, the executive director of the World Peace Foundation, said the fall of el-Fashir could see larger-scale brutality against civilians and that a famine is already unfolding in Darfur.

“El-Fashir is significant for a number of reasons,” De Waal added. “It’s the last stronghold of the internationally-recognised government… in Darfur. It’s also a place where the other armed groups that are allied with the government… are holed up.

“So if it were to fall to the RSF, not only would we see the kind of massive rampage and looting that we’ve seen elsewhere, but probably also [a] large-scale massacre of civilians.”

Source: Al Jazeera