35 children among those killed in latest Sudan civil war carnage, U.N. says

Johannesburg — The United Nations confirmed late Thursday that 35 children were among those killed in one of the deadliest attacks to date in the civil war that has torn Sudan apart for more than a year. Eyewitnesses said the brutal attack left up to 200 people dead in the village of Wad Al-Noora, in Sudan’s central Gezira state.

Sudan’s army vowed a strong response against the rival Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, which it accused of carrying out a “massacre of civilians.”

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s army chief and president, said his troops would take action over the incident.

The RSF has denied carrying out a massacre, but has acknowledged conducting military operations near the town.

Nearly 100 killed in raid on village in Sudan
An infographic shows the location of the town of Wad al-Noora in central Sudan, where the Sudanese army accused the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of carrying out a massacre on June 5, 2024.

Elmurod Usubaliev/Anadolu/Getty

Local officials initially said more than 100 people were shot Wednesday in Wad Al-Noora, with later reports saying the death toll could be as high as 200. Many more were believed to be wounded.

Videos on social media, which could not be independently verified, show what was said to be the aftermath of the attack, with rows of bodies lined up ready for burial.

Sudan’s military government, led by al-Burhan, called for international condemnation of the attack.

A man-made humanitarian crisis and claims of war crimes

More than a year into the war in Sudan, roughly half of the country’s population — some 25 million people — are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. In their worst-case outlooks, humanitarian agencies say 4 million children may be facing acute malnutrition, and 2.5 million could die of hunger.

It’s a man-made humanitarian disaster that aid agencies say has been largely ignored by the world amid the ongoing wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

A recent report by Human Rights Watch claims an act of genocide may have been committed in the West Darfur city of El Geneina. The report lays out claims of alleged ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity committed against the ethnic Massalit and non-Arab communities in the city by the paramilitary RSF forces and their Arab allies.

What to know about Sudan’s deadly civil war


HRW has called for international sanctions against RSF leader Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, widely known as Hemedti.

One report details an attack on June 15, 2023, that HRW says involved RSF and allied forces opening fire on a convoy of civilians fleeing El Geneina, allegedly killing 12 children and five adults from two families, before throwing their bodies “into the river and their belongings in after them.”

There is a long and bloody history of fighting over resources in Sudan, and the surrounding region. Former Sudanese President Omar el Bashir, who was ousted by the army in 2019, regularly exploited those conflicts, fanning the flames of ethnic violence for political gain.

His government created Arab militias in the early 2000s to quell rebellions by non-Arab farming and pastoralist communities. Those Arab militias became known as the Janjaweed and, later, the RSF paramilitary group emerged from their ranks. 

Objects are scattered in the yard of house in Omdurman, central Sudan, May 30, 2024, that was damaged amid fighting in the civil war that has raged for more than a year between the regular military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.


Sudan’s civil war has become a global proxy war

The civil war broke out last year, starting as a power struggle between al-Burhan and Hemedti, but it has morphed into a larger proxy war as regional and foreign actors compete for influence and resources.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt back al-Burhan’s government, and he has recently been working to forge closer ties with Iran and Russia.

Humanitarian groups and regional analysts say the United Arab Emirates and Russia have been providing arms and resources to the RSF. UAE officials have repeatedly denied those claims.

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In the most significant recent development, it seems almost certain that a deal is about to be signed between Moscow and al-Burhan’s government to secure Russia a 25-year Red Sea port, in exchange for military hardware. 

Russia has long sought access to the strategic Red Sea, with analysts saying they would expect considerable military hardware to be offered up in exchange for what’s understood to be a small port base where Russia could position four warships and about 300 Russian soldiers.

The two generals’ battle for control of their country’s resources has become a proxy war for major global powers vying for access to gold mines and Red Sea access. Sudan’s capital Khartoum, one of the African continent’s most populous cities, is now described as a battlefield, in a country whose people are on the brink of famine.

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