Imminent attack on Sudan's El Fasher city is likely, UN warns

Reports say Rapid Support Forces set for assault on last government-held major city in western Darfur region

A member of the Sudanese army amid devastation in the city of Omdurman, near the capital Khartoum. Reuters
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The UN on Friday said an attack on El Fasher in Sudan's North Darfur region could be imminent, warning this would have “devastating consequences” for the already suffering population.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body is receiving “increasingly alarming reports of a dramatic escalation of tensions” between armed actors in El Fasher.

“The Rapid Support Forces are reportedly encircling El Fasher, suggesting a co-ordinated move to attack the city may be imminent,” Mr Dujarric said, noting that the rival Sudanese army also appear to be positioning itself.

“An attack on the city would have devastating consequences for the civilian population. This escalation of tensions is in an area already on the brink of famine.”

Algerian diplomat Ramtane Lamamra, who is UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' personal envoy to Sudan, is engaging with the parties to de-escalate tension in El Fasher, said Mr Dujarric.

War broke out in April 2023 between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions forced from their homes, with the impoverished country pushed to the brink of famine.

According to the UN, almost 28 million people across the region affected by the conflict face acute food insecurity, with 18 million in Sudan, seven million in South Sudan and nearly three million in Chad.

El Fasher is the last major city in the vast western Darfur region not under control of the RSF.

The RSF and its allies swept through four other Darfur state capitals last year, and were blamed for a campaign of ethnically driven killings against non-Arab groups and other abuses in West Darfur.

A UN report published in February accused both sides of committing horrific abuse, including using “explosive weapons with wide-area effects – such as missiles fired from fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-aircraft weapons and artillery shells – in densely populated areas”.

International efforts led by the US and Saudi Arabia to broker a truce have failed and the two sides have refused to return to the negotiating table.

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk also called on Friday for an immediate de-escalation and an end to the conflict, as well as an “investigation into all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law”.

Updated: April 26, 2024, 5:12 PM