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Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took control of the southeastern city of Wad Madani this week, forcing many to flee from the former safe haven that had housed hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people since the conflict began earlier this year, the Middle East Eye reported.
On Monday, the RSF announced on social media that it had taken control of the army’s First Infantry Division in Wad Madani, one of Sudan’s largest cities and the capital of the Jazira state.
The offensive began last week when paramilitary troops, riding in with hundreds of weapons-mounted vehicles, came in from the capital Khartoum in the north and west, as well as eastern routes through al-Butana.
Although Sudan’s military launched airstrikes, residents living in the villages on the road between Khartoum and Wad Madani said there was no sign of government troops as the RSF charged through the state.
The attack caused panic among Jazira’s residents and its displaced population, resulting in thousands of people leaving Wad Madani. The city had served as an aid hub at the start of the civil conflict in April following a fallout between Army Chief Abdel Fattah Burhan and his former deputy, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti.
Following the RSF’s seizure, the United Nations and other aid organizations said they left Wad Madani and suspended their operations in the state.
Jazira, home to nearly six million people, including half a million displaced by Khartoum’s fighting, is a crucial breadbasket situated between the Nile River’s two main tributaries – the White and Blue Niles.
Recent attacks have exacerbated food security concerns.
The RSF’s expansion into the southeastern state follows the seizures of four out of Darfur’s five states, significant parts of Khartoum, and regions in Kordofan in recent months.
More than 12,000 have died in the conflict with both sides accusing each other of indiscriminately bombing civilian areas, according to estimates by the Armed Conflict Locations and Events Data project.
The UN said more than five million people have been internally displaced and 1.3 million Sudanese have fled abroad during the fighting.