The deaths of dozens of civilians in fighting in the far south of Sudan and an outbreak of communal violence in the restive Darfur region have fuelled fears that communities across the frontier regions of Africa’s third biggest country are being drawn into the bloody contest between two rival generals.
Fighting in the southern state of North Kordofan between militias aligned with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group and local brigades of the Sudanese army has centred on the strategically important state capital, El Obeid.
“The two sides went to war and the civilians in the middle got hurt in their houses,” said Hafiz Mohamed, the UK-based director of Justice Africa Sudan, who is from the region.
The city sits astride key communications links between Khartoum and Darfur, the home of the RSF leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, and many of his fighters. It also has an airstrip, which like others across the country is crucial to the army’s air superiority and therefore a valuable target for the RSF.
Medics in El Obeid said the first round of fighting centred on El Abyad neighbourhood, killing 10 people including seven children and wounding more than 20. A local hospital struggled to deal with the influx of injured, facing power cuts as generators ran out of fuel, and a shortage of blood.
In a second round of fighting on Sunday, 15 people were killed when the RSF attacked a village south of El Obeid. The paramilitaries’ aim appears to be to secure approaches to the town before launching a more substantial assault, local observers said.