RSF fighters launch attack on city south of Sudan's capital

Residents of Wad Madani report heavy gunfire and artillery after dawn assault by paramilitary force

About six million Sudanese have been displaced by the war, which began in April. Reuters
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Hundreds of fighters from Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on Friday launched an attack on Wad Madani, a city where hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the country's war had sought shelter.

Witnesses said explosions and heavy gunfire could be heard in the city, about 190km south-east of the capital Khartoum, shortly after dawn.

Videos posted online showed dozens of SUVs belonging to the RSF heading to the city centre as army fighter jets and drones flew overhead.

"They are fighting with heavy weapons inside the city," one Wad Madani resident told The National as heavy gunfire and artillery was heard in the background.

There was no immediate comment from the army or the RSF.

The city's markets were closed and residents said they planned to remain at home to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

“Heavy artillery shells are landing at the city's south-eastern districts and I see army jets and drones flying over us and drawing heavy anti-aircraft gunfire,” Wad Madani resident Tareq Al Sheikh told The National.

“The army is deploying many men at the centre of the city. We haven't left our homes today."

Capturing Wad Madani would represent a major battlefield victory for the RSF, which has been fighting against the army since April. The conflict has displaced about six million people and created a humanitarian crisis.

The RSF has seized control of much of the capital and in recent months captured cities in the western Darfur region.

The fighting in Wad Madani comes less than a week after the two warring sides agreed to have their leaders – army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and RSF commander Gen Mohamed Dagalo – meet to discuss a permanent ceasefire.

The RSF said on Thursday that its deputy commander, Gen Dagalo's brother Abdel Raheem Dagalo, will represent the RSF at the talks.

Wad Madani, the capital of Al Jazirah state – Sudan's bread basket – is home to about 500,000 people displaced from Khartoum, UN figures show.

RSF fighters have recently entered areas leading to Wad Madani, setting up checkpoints along the road between the city and Khartoum.

Updated: December 15, 2023, 5:10 PM