Killings and attacks on communities in Darfur by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militias have been reported “in clear violation” of a fragile ceasefire in Sudan, civil society groups said.
At least four civil society groups and activists have reported attacks which took place over the weekend in North Darfur.
The timings spill into Sunday – the first day of a 72-hour ceasefire announced by the two main warring parties, the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).
A North Darfur civil society group and the Darfur Victims Solidarity Association said late Monday, the RSF seized an SAF garrison in North Darfur’s Tawila locality in the morning, killing a number of armed forces soldiers.
Residents of the community fled the area in fighting that started Friday evening.
There was a “clear violation of the armistice,” the groups said.
El Fasher Resistance Committees in North Darfur, part of a Sudan-wide civilian pro-democracy network, first alerted the attack on the Tawila community on Friday evening.
At least seven people were killed in the initial Friday attack, with the market, local government office and police station looted, livestock and cars stolen, and the town’s northern and eastern neighborhoods destroyed, the committees reported.
Subsequent numbers of casualties are currently unknown due to communications cuts, a North Darfur activist who requested anonymity on safety grounds, told CNN.
In a separate report released Monday, Dar Masalit (Home of Masalit) sultanate said “more than 5,000 people were killed and at least 8,000 injured” in a two-month period since the start of fighting – which began in Darfur on April 24 – in West Darfur’s capital El Geneina region alone.
The Masalit are the majority ethnic group in West Darfur. Their historic home encompasses a wider area that includes parts of eastern Chad, with a sultan as the traditional head of the non-Arab African community.
The Dar Masalit report accuses the RSF and allied Janjaweed militias of the killings and other crimes, as published by the sultanate.
“A series of systematic and bloody attacks launched by the RSF and the Janjaweed militia, with the aim of ethnically cleansing African civilians and of committing genocide,” were witnessed by the sultanate, the Dar Masalit report said.
CNN cannot independently verify the figures, they are considerably higher than other recent reports of deaths and injuries.
Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), a women’s rights group active in Darfur, reported over 1,000 deaths and 2,000 injuries in El Geneina since April 24.
And Sudan’s Minister of Health Haitham Ibrahim said 3,000 people have been killed across Sudan since the conflict started on April 15, in an interview on Saudi al-Hadath television Saturday.
Information on casualties from Darfur is limited due to the communication blackout, Ibrahim added.
Lawyers, doctors and teachers targeted
Civil society activists and monitoring groups have also reported the targeting of community leaders, lawyers, doctors, teachers and other professionals on the Masalit community in West Darfur, as well as in Khartoum, since the beginning of the conflict.
Several high profile Masalit figures have been killed in the past week, including West Darfur governor Khamis Abbaker.
The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) said Monday that two more members of the organization have been killed in West Darfur by the RSF and their militias, without specifying the day of the reported killings.
DBA named Professors Tariq Hassan Yaqoub Al-Malik, and the West Darfur humanitarian aid commissioner Al-Sadiq Muhammad Ahmed Haroun, both investigators of killings committed in 2021 at Krinding displaced persons camp in the state.
On Sunday, the DBA urged its members to leave the state’s capital, El Geneina, after the organization reportedly received threatening messages.
The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) condemned the killings, saying in a statement: “Compelling eyewitness accounts attribute this act to Arab militias and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), even though the RSF communicated a denial of their involvement to the mission.”
RSF General Abdel-Rahman Gumma on Monday repeated the paramilitary group’s denial of responsibility for the governor’s killing, blaming “outlaws.”
In a recorded voice message posted to Twitter, Gumma called the conflict in Geneina “tribal.”
The UN Human Rights Commission recently expressed concern about a “shocking rise in hate speech in West Darfur against the Massalit.”
“I am particularly concerned by reports of gender-based and sexual violence, and by the ethnic dimension of the violence in Geneina,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Monday, adding to the growing number of concerned voices.
El Geneina center of attacks
The city of El Geneina witnessed the highest number of “violent attacks and crimes against humanity” in the month of May, when the RSF and Janjaweed targeted shelters and neighborhoods with “heavy artillery,” resulting in the deaths of hundreds of citizens on some days, the Dar Masalit report said.
The report cited the neighborhoods that came under the most fire, including Al Jamarek, Al Buhaira, Al Thawrah, Al Tadamon, Al Madaris, Al Mansoura, and Al Jabal among others.
CNN has confirmed attacks on three of the named neighborhoods.
On May 28 and 29, RSF and Janjaweed militiamen attacked the Misterei area, some 42 kilometers (26 miles) southwest of El Geneina, resulting in the deaths of dozens of civilians and “the displacement of the entire population of the region to Chad,” the report stated.
CNN geolocated and verified extensive fires in the Misterei area on these dates.
On June 15, the siege on all neighborhoods in El Geneina “intensified,” causing a large number of civilians to flee west toward Chad through the Hashab forests, the Dar Masalit report said.
Those fleeing were “brutally attacked…killed, wounded and their belongings robbed” by RSF and Janjaweed militiamen, the report added.
The Dar Masalit report sketched a broad picture of “ethnic cleansing” by the RSF and associated Janjaweed militias, with a severely deteriorated security and humanitarian situation in West Darfur.
CNN cannot independently verify all incidents as outlined in the Dar Masalit report. But CNN has confirmed and reported on thousands of civilians fleeing Geneina and West Darfur.
Additional social media videos and testimony, as well as human rights activists and groups’ reports, support large sections of the Dar Masalit report findings.
In the past four days, 15,000 West Darfur refugees, including almost 900 wounded, have arrived in the Chadian border town of Adré, Medicins Sans Frontiers, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said Monday evening.
On Saturday, the US and Saudi Arabia announced the RSF and SAF agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire, with the two groups agreeing to refrain from military strikes and allow “the unimpeded movement of and delivery of humanitarian assistance.”
“The parties agreed that during the ceasefire they will refrain from prohibited movements, attacks, use of military aircraft or drones, artillery strikes, reinforcement of positions and resupply of forces, and will refrain from seeking military advantage during the ceasefire,” a joint statement from the US Embassy in Khartoum and the Saudi foreign ministry said in a joint statement.
The statement suggested that peace talks facilitated by the US and Saudi Arabia could be disbanded if the ceasefire isn’t honored.
It’s the latest ceasefire agreement in the ongoing conflict between the two Sudanese paramilitary groups that forced US diplomatic staff to evacuate Sudan in April.
The previous ceasefires haven’t stopped the fighting between rival factions.