Mass Exodus and Detention of Youths in Sudan’s El Gezira as RSF Launches Attacks

Battles between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) near Wad Madani, capital of El Gezira, have forced nearly 15,000 people to flee the besieged city. Clashes have also been reported from Rufaa. The governor of El Gezira has ordered the detention of alleged supporters of the RSF. Many young men hailing from Darfur and Kordofan have been held.

There are conflicting reports about RSF paramilitaries entering the eastern neighbourhoods of Wad Madani. State employees have posted videos on social media confirming the RSF invasion of the large city.

The fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF militia reportedly spread to the eastern outskirts of Wad Madani. Battles took place in El Sharafa, Abu Haraz, El Ghanoum, and the El Riyadh and Hantoub neighbourhoods.

Sources told Radio Dabanga about widespread plundering of banks, gas stations, and markets by RSF soldiers and bandits.

The RSF have advanced within about 1.5 km of the Wad Madani bridge Sudan War Monitor reported yesterday. They entered Hantoub from both the north and the east. They captured the offices of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police and the courthouse, among other locations.

@RahmanAmasib tweeted on Friday that the RSF attacks on Wad Madani “cut off a civilian supply line from the east, which was already cut off from the north. RSF troops are advancing from the west, from Abu Gouta, which they seized on Thursday. Wad Madani is besieged, he stated. And “a siege of a city means practically its fall”.

The army blocked the Rufaa Bridge to the north with containers. Warplanes of the Sudanese air force carried out several sorties, amid reports of a partial evacuation of a number of SAF bases to enable the aircraft to bomb groups of RSF paramilitaries attacking the sites.

The Hantoub Bridge is still closed for vehicles. Pedestrians are allowed to pass, and many videos and photos of people leaving the city packed with bags and suitcases have been posted on social media. They are fleeing, “just to get out of Wad Madani”, to other places in El Gezira or to neighbouring states Sennar, Blue Nile, El Gedaref, and Kassala.

A source in Rufaa, about 60 km north of Wad Madani, reported sounds of artillery shooting in the area, and said that “the town is besieged by RSF soldiers”.

Fleeing en masse

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan reported in its second flash update on El Gezira yesterday that air strikes were reported on Friday and Saturday in the western, northern, and eastern parts of Wad Madani and in the vicinity of El Sharafa Barakat village north of the town.

Sporadic shootings were heard in various areas in the capital of El Gezira in the past two days. “Clashes remain ongoing. Panic is reportedly growing among the civilians in the town and people have been seen leaving on foot. The situation remains tense and unpredictable.”

According to the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix, approximately 14,000 to 15,000 people have been displaced from Wad Madani El Kubra locality.

Wad Madani has served as a hub for humanitarian operations since fighting broke out in April this year between SAF and RSF, OCHA explainED. Humanitarian organizations have relocated STAFF to neighbouring states to be positioned to return once the situation permits. A suspension of all humanitarian field missions within and from El Gezira has been put in place as of 15 December until further notice.

“Sporadic gunfire was heard in different areas of Wad Madani. Clashes continue. Panic is reportedly growing among civilians in the town and people are seen leaving by car and on foot. The situation remains tense and unpredictable,” the UN agency reported.

‘Fifth column’

Security forces have detained dozens of young men from Darfur and Kordofan among residents and displaced in Wad Madani, following instructions “under the state of emergency” by the governor of El Gezira, Ibrahim El Kheir.

El Kheir ordered “the detention of all members of the fifth column cooperating with the RSF militiamen, and which consists of displaced originally from Darfur and Kordofan, who entered El Gezira recently, members of the forces of the Freedom and Change Declaration, and of the resistance committees” in a circular issued yesterday.

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