The paramilitary force battling the army in Sudan has taken control of a town in South Darfur, triggering clashes, looting and a new wave of displacement, conflict monitors and a witness said on Monday.
Clashes between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army around the town of Kas had caused up to 5,000 households to flee, some of them from camps for displaced people, according to a tracking system run by the International Organization for Migration.
The war that erupted between the army and the RSF in the capital Khartoum has led to a surge of ethnically-charged violence and displacement in Darfur, the RSF’s powerbase and a region already suffering from long-running conflict.
The RSF said on Sunday that it had taken control of an army base in Kas, seizing vehicles and weapons and capturing 30 soldiers as part of the wider conflict.
The Darfur Bar Association, an activist group that monitors the conflict, condemned what it called an attack on Kas by the RSF that had led to looting and theft.
Alfadil Mohamed, a witness, told Reuters there had been heavy clashes in the town, resulting in at least three deaths and the displacement of residents towards the east.
On Friday the U.S.-based Sudan Conflict Observatory reported that the RSF and aligned forces had allegedly carried out the targeted destruction of at least 26 communities in Darfur, forcibly displacing at least 668,000 civilians, since mid-April.
It said that the pattern of the attacks primarily against non-Arab communities was identical to those deployed by Sudan’s government and the allied Janjaweed militias in 2003-2004, when mass atrocities were committed as they fought to crush a rebellion.
The RSF developed from the Janjaweed militias into a large and well-equipped fighting force with official status. It has said that recent violence against civilians in Darfur was tribal, and that it was not party to it.
The current war, which erupted amid disputes over a planned transition towards civilian rule, has led to the displacement of more than 3 million people, including more than 700,000 who have crossed into neighbouring countries.
Fighting has continued in the capital, where the army said that on Saturday and Sunday the RSF had hit the Medical Corps complex and the military-owned Aliaa hospital in Omdurman, one of Khartoum’s twin cities.
Aliaa, which treats both military and civilian patients, had also been hosting former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who was transferred there from prison before the start of the conflict along with other prominent detainees. The army did not give an update on Bashir’s current whereabouts.
Beginning on Friday, intense clashes were seen in the city of Bahri, across the Nile from Omdurman and the capital Khartoum.
RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo claimed a victory for his forces there in an audio note on Monday.
“The choice of peace and stability in Sudan has always been and still is our choice… Yet, we are prepared for the choice of war and ready to sacrifice ourselves to ensure a decent life for our people,” said Dagalo, widely known in Sudan as Hemedti, in an audio statement.
While the two sides have shown openness towards mediation efforts led by regional and international actors, none have resulted in a sustained ceasefire.