Sudan’s paramilitary RSF advances, aims to cement control

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The paramilitaries fighting the Sudanese army over the past six months have advanced and sought to consolidate their reach in the capital in recent weeks, eyewitnesses told Reuters.

Fighting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted on April 15 over tensions linked to a planned transition to civilian rule. It has devastated the capital Khartoum and sparked ethnically driven attacks in Darfur.

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Months after mediators suspended negotiations, there appears to be no clear winner and no end in sight to a war that has displaced more than 5.75 million people, killed thousands and destroyed major cities.

The RSF quickly controlled the capital and residents have accused it of looting and occupying homes. The army, which has maintained control of its bases, has launched major airstrikes and artillery fire.

The RSF has now appeared to attempt to move southward, towards Gezira state, a key agricultural area and population center. Hundreds of thousands of people, as well as some government and humanitarian functions displaced from Khartoum, have moved there.

Last week, the RSF took control of Ailafoun, a major town on one of the routes to Madani, and they looted and displaced thousands of residents, with many fleeing on foot, eyewitnesses said.

“The attack was so strong that the army soldiers finished their ammunition and had to run back to their base,” said Amna, one of those who fled.

The force has also continued with fierce attacks on Nyala and El Obeid to the west of the capital that began soon after the outbreak of war.

The army says its soldiers, and particularly special forces units, are fighting back the advances.

Within Khartoum, the RSF has launched attacks on several army bases, including the main army headquarters and the armored corps base.

Across the Nile in Omdurman, eyewitnesses say the RSF has been using long-range artillery, previously out of reach for the paramilitary group, to attack the crucial Wadi Sayidna airforce base.

During that campaign, eyewitnesses said the RSF shelled a hospital run by medical aid agency MSF on Oct. 9, killing two people and drawing widespread condemnation.

On Wednesday, MSF said it was withdrawing surgical teams from one hospital it operated in Khartoum after supplies ran out and authorities blocked supplies. It warned that the other hospital it operates in the city, one of a handful still accepting patients, would also soon lose supplies.

According to residents, the RSF launched another campaign on an army base south of Khartoum in the Jebel Awlia area that killed 45 people this month, said a lawyer’s group which did not blame a side.

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