US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday warned Sudan’s paramilitary force against what Washington said were signs of an “imminent large-scale attack” in North Darfur’s capital where thousands have fled fighting.
“The United States is deeply troubled by reports of an imminent large-scale attack by Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on El Fasher, North Darfur, that would subject civilians, including hundreds of thousands of displaced persons — many of whom only recently fled to El Fasher from other areas — to extreme danger,” Blinken said in a statement.
“The United States calls on the warring parties to immediately cease further attacks in and around El Fasher to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law concerning civilians,” Blinken said.
While the United States did not cite the source of its information, the statement was unusually strong as it was issued in Blinken’s name.
Since April, the war between regular forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary RSF, commanded by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has killed more than 9,000 people and displaced over 5.6 million.
The two sides returned to talks last week in Jeddah, brokered by the United States and Saudi Arabia, but US officials say the goals for now are limited to pushing through ceasefires and allowing in humanitarian aid.
But violence has flared in Darfur, with an eyewitness in El Fasher telling AFP that an army base was targeted by drones on Thursday.
The RSF became notorious during Sudan’s scorched-earth campaign two decades ago in the arid western region, where the United States at the time alleged a campaign of genocide against the Darfuris by the country’s mostly Arab leadership.
Numerous rights groups and witnesses who fled Darfur have reported the massacre of civilians and ethnically driven attacks and killings, largely by paramilitary forces and their allied Arab tribal militias.