Tens of thousands flee as paramilitaries attack Sudan’s al-Fashir

FILE PHOTO: Sudanese refugees who fled the violence in Sudan's Darfur region and newly arrived ride their donkeys looking for space to temporarily settle, near the border between Sudan and Chad in Goungour, Chad May 8, 2023. (Reuters)

Tens of thousands of people fled their homes in a camp in the Sudanese city of al-Fashir, activists said, after a raid by Rapid Support Forces paramilitary forces who are fighting to seize the last army stronghold in the western Darfur region.

RSF troops attacked and looted the vast Abu Shouk camp on Wednesday, killing an unknown number of people and wounding at least 13, locals said, more than a year into Sudan’s war.

Around 60% of the more than 100,000 inhabitant fled on Thursday, according to the Coordinating Committee for Refugees and Displaced People, which oversees camps in the region. Fighting continued in other parts of al-Fashir on Friday, locals said.

The RSF and its allies swept through four other Darfur state capitals last year, and were blamed for a campaign of ethnically driven killings against non-Arab groups and other abuses in West Darfur – accusations they have dismissed.

There was no immediate comment from the RSF or the army on the latest clashes in al-Fashir, a historic centre of power. Both have blamed each other for the violence.

The U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide said this week there was a risk of genocide, opens new tab, and allegations that it was already taking place.

Civilians in al-Fashir and other parts of Darfur were being targeted on the basis of their identity and skin colour, Alice Wairimu Nderitu told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

Abu Shouk is home to survivors of the violence in Darfur two decades ago, where janjaweed militias, the precursors to the RSF, fought alongside the Sudanese army and were accused of genocide.

About half a million more people moved into al-Fashir during the ongoing war that broke out between the army and the RSF in the capital Khartoum in April 2023, as long-simmering tensions over integrating the two forces came to a head.

At least 85 people have died at the only functioning hospital in the south of al-Fashir since May 10, according to medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The total number of casualties is much larger as civilians hit by fighting in the north, east, and south of the city have not been able to reach medics, MSF and residents say.

The RSF has accused the army of using human shields as well as carrying out extensive air strikes, including destroying al-Fashir’s power station.


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