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Babies’ throat slit, rockets hit hospitals, as Sudan war continues
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Fighting in Sudan’s North Darfur state has split along ethnic lines as some groups side with the government against the Rapid Support Forces, which is targeting the region’s Masalit community in what observers describe as ethnic cleansing.

As the battle for control of Sudan’s Darfur region rages on, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have increasingly focused attacks on a single ethnic group: the non-Arab Masalits. This group makes up a significant part of the region’s population and is fighting alongside other groups to keep the region out of RSF hands in the country’s civil war.

North Darfur and its capital, el-Fasher, are the only part of the larger Darfur region outside the RSF’s control. Conquering el-Fasher will give the RSF a path to attack Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) positions in northern Sudan and to resupply through Libya allegedly with the help of Russian mercenaries.

El-Fasher currently shelters about 1.5 million people, many of whom have fled violence elsewhere in Darfur. On May 19, RSF rocket fire hit el-Fasher’s Women’s, Maternity, and Neonatal Hospital, injuring nine people and heavily damaging the building’s water and electrical systems.

The attacks on el-Fasher mirror similar RSF assaults in el-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, for much of 2023. Sudan’s Masalit population is concentrated in West Darfur.

“The attackers methodically destroyed critical civilian infrastructure, targeting neighborhoods and sites, including schools, in primarily Masalit displaced communities,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigators reported. “Committing serious violations against the Masalit with the apparent objective of at least having them permanently leave the region constitutes ethnic cleansing.”

Non-Arab Masalits, Zaghawas and Furs have been the targets of attacks by the RSF and its precursor, the Janjaweed, for more than 20 years.

When fighting broke out in April 2023 between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF, the Darfur-based RSF paramilitary quickly renewed its historic assault on non-Arab residents of the region.
Local militias formed the Darfur Joint Force in April 2023 as a neutral body tasked with protecting el-Fasher. Darfur Gov. Minni Minnawi, an ethnic Zaghawa, led the group, which included Minnawi’s Sudan Liberation Movement, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Sudanese Alliance, and the Gathering of Sudan Liberation Forces.

Now, more than a year later, fighting in Darfur has splintered along ethnic lines as decades-old animosities have turned into violence and destruction on a massive scale.

In November 2023, Minnawi and JEM leader Gibril Ibrahim sided with the SAF under the Darfur Joint Forces umbrella. Both militias are engaged in the fight for el-Fasher.

The Sudanese Alliance, the Gathering of Sudan Liberation Forces and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Transitional Council have remained neutral in the conflict and dedicated to protecting civilians of el-Fasher from assaults.

HRW investigators say that tens of thousands of people, many of them Masalit, have died since fighting broke out in 2023. Those who have not fled to camps in Chad sometimes find RSF fighters at their doors.

One survivor, identified as Karima, told investigators that RSF fighters went house to house killing male Masalit residents. They later raped her repeatedly, she said.

Residents of el-Geneina told Reuters similar stories about male Masalit residents, from infants to adults, being shot by RSF fighters.

Masalit members who fled to Chad for safety have been assaulted on the road. RSF fighters and their Arab militia allies have gang-raped women, slit babies’ throats and run over people with cars. In one instance, witnesses said RSF fighters attacked a fleeing convoy, separated children from their parents, killed the parents, then shot the children and dumped their bodies in a river. Other recorded atrocities include people being burned alive in their homes or shot on the street by snipers. The fighters have destroyed schools and hospitals.

“Satellite imagery corroborates that, since the RSF and allied militias took control of El Geneina in June, predominantly Masalit neighborhoods have been systematically dismantled, many with bulldozers, preventing civilians who fled from returning to their homes,” HRW investigators reported.

ADF Magazine

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