Fighters from a paramilitary force and their Arab militia allies rampaged through a town in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region, killing more than 800 people in an attack that lasted several days, officials said. doctors and the United Nations (UN).
The attack on the town of Ardamata in West Darfur province earlier this month was the latest in a series of atrocities in Darfur that have marked the months-long war between the Sudanese army and paramilitaries Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Sudan has been plunged into chaos since mid-April, when simmering tensions between military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and RSF commander General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo exploded into open war.
The war broke out 18 months after the two generals overthrew a transitional government in a military coup. The military takeover ended Sudan’s fragile and short-lived transition to democracy, following a popular uprising that forced the overthrow of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
In recent weeks, the RSF has advanced in Darfur, taking control of entire towns in the sprawling region, despite the warring parties returning to the negotiating table in Saudi Arabia late last month. The first round of talks, hosted by the United States and Saudi Arabia, failed to establish a ceasefire.
The Ardamata attack, which lasted several days, came after the RSF took control of a military base in the town following brief fighting on November 4 with troops, said Salah Tour, head of the West Darfur Sudanese Doctors Union. He said the army had withdrawn from the base, adding that about two dozen wounded soldiers had fled to Chad, the country west of Sudan.
Spokespeople for the army and the RSF did not respond to requests for comment.
After seizing the military base, the RSF and their allied Arab militias ransacked the town, killing non-Arabs in their homes and burning shelters housing displaced people, Tour said.
“They violently attacked the town,” he said, adding that the RSF and its militias targeted the Masalit community.
“They went from house to house, killing and arresting people. »
The Darfur Bar Association, a human rights group, accused RSF fighters of committing “all types of serious violations against defenseless civilians” in Ardamata. The organization cites a November 6 attack in which the RSF killed more than 50 people, including a tribal leader and his family.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said more than 800 people were killed and another 8,000 fled to Chad. The agency said, however, that the number of people who fled was probably underestimated, due to difficulties in registering new arrivals in Chad.
The agency said about 100 shelters in the city were razed and significant looting took place, including humanitarian aid belonging to the agency.
The US State Department said it was “deeply troubled by eyewitness reports of serious human rights violations committed by the RSF and affiliated militias, including killings in Ardamata and ethnic attacks against the leaders and members of the Masalit community.”
“These horrific actions once again highlight the abuses committed by the RSF during their military offensives,” he said in a statement.