People fleeing to Chad have reported a new spike in ethnically motivated killings in Sudan’s West Darfur, as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took over the main army base in the country’s capital El Geneina.
On Tuesday, a Reuters reporter saw a trail of men crossing from Darfur into Chad at Adre, about 17 miles west of El Geneina. Three of the refugees said they witnessed killings by Arab militias and RSF forces targeting the Masalit ethnic group in Ardamata, a remote district in El Geneina that is home to the military base and an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp ) condition.
RSF did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters was unable to independently verify reports of the events.
Reuters has reported that the RSF and allied Arab militias carried out weeks of systematic attacks against the Masalit, the majority ethnic African El Geneina tribe, between April and June this year, as war broke out in the country between the RSF and the Sudanese army.
In public comments, Arab tribal leaders have denied taking part in ethnic cleansing in El Geneina, and the RSF has said it was not involved in what it described as a tribal conflict.
At talks in Jeddah, the warring parties agreed to facilitate aid deliveries and confidence-building measures, mediators said on Tuesday, but efforts to reach a ceasefire have so far failed.
The attack on the army base in Ardamata began early last week when militiamen also began shelling houses in the refugee camp, said Nabil Meccia, a nurse who said he entered Chad after being detained by RSF at the border and His release was paid for to secure his release.
He said he saw RSF troops killing civilians when they fired shots during raids in the Ardamata camp, and saw them line up and execute men. Like others, after attacks elsewhere in El Geneina this year, Meccia had moved to Ardamata, where residents hoped for protection from the army.
An army soldier, who did not want to be named, who fled the Ardamata base, said a drone strike early Friday destroyed defenses and that military commanders had already left on Saturday morning.
As army troops left their base, community leaders in Ardamata collected weapons to allow civilians safe passage, said Meccia and Sharaf Eddin Adam, another civilian refugee who arrived in Chad.
Residents with access to vehicles were able to escape, but others were arrested or forced to work by RSF before several dozen were lined up and executed shortly after midday on Sunday in Ardamata’s Kobri district, Adam said.
He said he saw dozens of civilian bodies lying lifeless in the streets and that people were also beaten and whipped.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the war in Sudan has led to a major humanitarian crisis and the displacement of more than six million people. According to the IOM, more than 500,000 people have entered Chad, most of them from West Darfur.
Medical charity MSF said the number of refugees arriving in Chad rose sharply to 7,000 in the first three days of November. The refugees are mostly women and children, and many have reported large-scale violence against civilians, it said.
U.N. officials in Chad said thousands more were expected to cross the border but were prevented from doing so by RSF troops demanding money.
Relatives are missing
Another witness, Mashaar Omar Ahmed, said militias and RSF troops, some in civilian clothes, others in uniform, executed more than 30 men in District B of Ardamata after separating them from the women.
“They asked the men if they were Masalite and they didn’t deny it,” she said as she carried her six-month-old daughter. She said 10 members of her family had been missing since Sunday.
Sarah Adam Idris, a 30-year-old who said her husband, siblings and other men in her family were missing after the attack, said attackers raided the refugee camp in Ardamata on Sunday morning. Although tribal leaders sought assurances of safe passage, the RSF stormed, burned and looted homes, killing men, she said.
The soldier said that when he arrived at the border with Chad, he posed as a civilian and denied being a Masalite in order to pass. Another man was taken away after RSF border guards found a picture of him in an army uniform on his cell phone, the soldier said.
Abdel Karim Rahman Yacoub, a truck driver who made it to Chad after pretending not to be Masalit, said he saw RSF kill two other men because of their identities.
Army soldier Malik Adam Mattar Ibrahim, 42, said he fled Ardamata in a convoy of at least 15 vehicles carrying militants and civilians who attacked the RSF with rocket-propelled grenades as they tried to reach Chad via a longer route through the mountains . Only two of the 27 people packed in his vehicle managed to escape, he said.
Toby Harward, a senior U.N. official for Darfur, described the reports and images from Ardamata as “sickening.” In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, he appealed to those with the authority to protect civilians and provide full humanitarian access.