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People from the states of Khartoum and al-Jazira, displaced by the conflict in Sudan between the army and paramilitaries, line up to receive aid from a charity organization in Gedaref on December 30. (AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

Sudan: People fleeing deadly rebel attack

June 6, 2024

By Mohammed Tawfeeq and Hamdi Alkhshali, CNN

(CNN) — At least 150 people were killed and 200 injured in an attack by rebel forces in Sudan, local officials and witnesses said, in the latest atrocity in the year-long war that has displaced more than 7 million people.

Eyewitnesses told CNN Thursday how fighters from Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) descended upon Wad al-Nour village in the central Al-Jazira state on Wednesday.

They described scenes of terror and carnage as over 40 armed vehicles stormed the village, unleashing heavy weaponry on its inhabitants, killing and wounding mostly civilians, among them children and women.

Fighting is still ongoing just a few kilometers away, with terrified villagers fearful of further escalations, the witness said.

Another eyewitness reported the ongoing grim task of counting the dead and injured. “So far, we’ve buried more than 120 people in a mass grave in the middle of the village,” he said.

CNN cannot independently verify the exact number of casualties.

Footage shared on social media Wednesday, and geolocated by CNN, shows a large crowd in Wad Al-Noura village surrounding dozens of dead bodies, shrouded in white, as preparations were being made for their burial.

Another video allegedly shows the RSF militia firing heavy and medium weapons towards the village.

Both the Sudanese army and the RSF have faced damning accusations of civilian massacres since the civil war broke out in April 2023.

The RSF acknowledged the attack in a statement Wednesday and said it was a pre-emptive attack on Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF), camps in Wad Al-Noura in response to a planned attack by the army. They did not acknowledge the civilian deaths reported.

According to the RSF, eight of its fighters were killed, others injured, and they seized vehicles, weapons, and military equipment during the operation.

However, eyewitnesses told CNN that there is no military presence in the village, adding that the Sudanese army operates a military base about 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Wad Al-Noura, which is being cited as a possible reason for the attack.

CNN has contacted both RSF and the Sudanese Army for comment.

A strategic target

Wad al-Nour village lies about 160 kilometers south of Sudanese capital Khartoum and is now the latest epicenter of violence in a country ravaged by internal conflict.

The village has long been a strategic target for the RSF, given its close location to Al-Manaqil, where the Sudanese army maintains its only presence in Al-Jazira state.

This was not the first attempt by the RSF to control Wad al-Noura, as they have tried several times to take the village.

Thousands have perished since fighting erupted between forces loyal to two rival generals – army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, leader of the SAF, and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the RSF.

Since the conflict started, both the Sudanese army and the RSF have faced damning accusations of civilian massacres.

The RSF has specifically targeted villages in Al-Jazira, Sudan’s agricultural heartland, to swell its ranks through forced conscription and using hunger as a weapon, eyewitnesses have said.

In March, eyewitnesses told CNN that more than 700 people, including dozens of children, were forcibly recruited from the state by the militia group after being ordered to “enlist or die.” The RSF denied this claim.

International outcry and humanitarian crisis

The Sudanese Transitional Sovereignty Council condemned the RSF’s actions, describing them as part of a systematic campaign of violence against civilians.

“This heinous crime is added to the series of crimes committed by this rebel militia in many states of Sudan. These are criminal acts that reflect the systematic behavior of these militias in targeting civilians, plundering their property, and forcibly displacing them from their areas,” the Council stated.

A UN representative on Thursday expressed deep concern over the reported violence and called for a thorough investigation and accountability for those responsible.

“Even by the tragic standards of Sudan’s conflict, the images emerging from Wad Al-Noura are heart-breaking. Wars have rules that need to be respected, no matter what,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Clementine Nkweta-Salami said.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has warned that “the number of people displaced by conflict inside Sudan could top 10 million in the coming days.”

“The world’s worst internal displacement crisis continues to escalate, with looming famine and disease adding to the havoc wrought by conflict,” IOM said in a statement on Thursday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted that over 8.8 million people have fled their homes, and 24.8 million urgently need assistance.

Last week at the UN Security Council, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Wairimu Nderitu warned, “The situation today bears all the marks of risk of genocide, with strong allegations that this crime has already been committed.”

CNN’s Avery Schmitz contributed to this report.

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