More than 800 Sudanese killed in Darfur attack, UN says
Fighters from a paramilitary force and their allied Arab militias have rampaged through a town in Sudan’s war-ravaged region of Darfur, reportedly killing more than 800 people in a days-long attack, doctors and the UN say.
The attack on Ardamata in West Darfur province earlier this month was the latest in a series of atrocities in Darfur that marked the months-long war between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, RSF.
Sudan has been engulfed in chaos since mid-April, when simmering tensions between military chief General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and the commander of the paramilitary RSF, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into open warfare.
The war came 18 months after both generals removed a transitional government in a military coup.
The military takeover ended Sudan’s short-lived, fragile transition to democracy following a popular uprising that forced the overthrow of longtime strongman Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
In recent weeks, the RSF advanced in Darfur, taking over entire cities and towns across the sprawling region despite the warring parties’ return to the negotiating table in Saudi Arabia late last month.
The first round of talks, brokered by the United States and Saudi Arabia, failed to establish a ceasefire.
The attack in Ardamata came after the RSF took over a military base in the town after fighting with troops there on November 4, said Salah Tour, head of the Sudanese Doctor’s Union in West Darfur.
He said the military withdrew from the base, adding that about two dozen wounded troops fled to Chad.
Spokespeople for the military and the RSF did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
After seizing the military base, the RSF and allied Arab militias rampaged through the town, killing non-Arabs inside their homes and torching shelters housing displaced people, Tour said.
“They violently attacked the town,” he said, adding that the RSF and their militias targeted the African Masalit tribe.
“They went from house to house, killing and detaining people.”
The Darfur Bar Association, an advocacy group, accused RSF fighters of committing “all types of serious violations against defenceless civilians” in Ardamata.
It cited an attack on November 6 during which the RSF killed more than 50 people including a tribal leader and his family.
The UNHCR said more than 800 people reportedly have been killed and 8000 others fled to neighbouring Chad.
The agency, however, said the number of people who fled was likely to be an underestimate due to challenges registering new arrivals to Chad.
The agency said about 100 shelters in the town were razed to the ground and extensive looting has taken place there, including humanitarian aid belonging to the agency.
“Twenty years ago, the world was shocked by the terrible atrocities and human rights violations in Darfur,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
“We fear a similar dynamic might be developing.”
The US State Department said it was “deeply disturbed by eyewitness reports of serious human rights abuses by the RSF and affiliated militias, including killings in Ardamata and ethnic targeting of the Masalit community leaders and members.
“These horrifying actions once again highlight the RSF’s pattern of abuses in connection with their military offensives,” it said in a statement.AP