Thousands flee Sudan town as war grips country’s south: witnesses

October 03, 2023

PORT SUDAN, Sudan: Thousands have fled a southern Sudan town, residents said on Monday, after attacks by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, at war with the army for nearly six months.


RSF fighters on dozens of armed vehicles attacked the town of Wad Ashana, on the border between North Kordofan and White Nile states, on Saturday, according to residents.

“My neighbour and my cousin were both killed in the crossfire. It was hours of terror,” Al-Tayeb Abdelbaqi told AFP from El Odaydab, a town 10-km away to which he could eventually flee, sheltering with a relative along with three other families.

By early September, the war between Sudan´s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, which began on April 15, had killed nearly 7,500 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) project.

The worst of the violence has been concentrated in Khartoum and the western region of Darfur, but North Kordofan -- a crossroads between the capital and Darfur -- has also seen fighting.

Almost 4.3 million people have been displaced by the fighting within Sudan, in addition to around 1.2 million more who have fled across borders. Dozens of families like Abdelbaqi´s, who fled to save their lives but left everything behind, were holed up in schools in the area.

“We left with only the clothes on our backs,” said another resident, Ahmed, who used to own a store in Wad Ashana and asked to only be identified by his first name for fear of retaliation. He said the local market “had been completely looted.” The same allegation has followed RSF attacks across Sudan since the war began.

Footage posted to social media on Sunday by the RSF claimed to show fighters “taking over the Wad Ashana garrison in North Kordofan and advancing towards Kosti,” the last major town on the road to South Sudan.

The Sudanese Armed Forces have not yet issued any comment on the situation there. According to Abdelbaqi, the area had been spared the fighting, until last week, when “an army force set up camp west of town”.

Three days later, “the RSF attacked the city, completely overtaking it and pushing the army” 35 kilometres east, he said. Already one of the world´s poorest countries, the war has brought a humanitarian catastrophe to Sudan, where millions are on the brink of famine, and diseases are spreading, according to the United Nations.