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How bloodthirsty fanatics are building new ‘empire of terror’ in war-ravaged Sudan…and West must be ready to fight

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MILITIAS in Sudan are slaughtering civilians to make way for a terror hub the world will be “forced to fight”, a genocide survivor has warned.

People are being raped, beheaded and are “dying of hunger” in what the UN has described as one of the “worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory”.

Rapid Support Forces fighters wave assault rifles as they cross a street in the East Nile district of greater Khartoum

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Rapid Support Forces fighters wave assault rifles as they cross a street in the East Nile district of greater KhartoumCredit: AFP
A young boy holds bullet cartridges as clashes between the RSF and Sudan's army continue in Khartoum North

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A young boy holds bullet cartridges as clashes between the RSF and Sudan’s army continue in Khartoum NorthCredit: Reuters
Supporters of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which supports the army, ride on trucks in Gedaref on March 3, 2024

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Supporters of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which supports the army, ride on trucks in Gedaref on March 3, 2024Credit: AFP
The reported aftermath of terror militia committing a heinous massacre in Sudan

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The reported aftermath of terror militia committing a heinous massacre in SudanCredit: X/@WealthRouteX

More than 15,000 people have died and millions more have been displaced in the brutal war which has raged in Sudan for almost a year.

Children as young as ten are being handed automatic rifles along with orders to “kill 300 fighters”, reports The Telegraph.

And nearly 18 million people – of a total population of 49 million – are facing acute hunger, with many “dying of starvation” and unable to receive aid due to the heavy fighting.

Women and girls are being abducted from the street, held in inhuman conditions, and raped – sometimes falling pregnant.

Read more on the war in Sudan

One victim was held for 35 days and repeatedly gang-raped by Sudan’s paramilitary forces, according to a shocking UN report.

The rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan, and the country’s geographical advantages, being at the crossroads of the Sahel, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa, make it an ideal home base for terrorists and international criminals, US intelligence warns.

Genocide survivor Niemat Ahmadi fled her home in North Darfur – where fresh clashes are flaring once again – 20 years after several attempts were made on her life.

She spoke exclusively to The Sun about the horrors she faced and why she fears that Sudan’s lawless warzones will become a breeding ground for terrorists.

She warned that ISIS fighters and other nomad fanatics could look to join forces in the region after the fall of the caliphate in Syria and Iraq in 2017.

Putin’s brutal Wagner Forces have also closed in on Sudan, looking to take advantage of the growing unrest and take control of the country’s gold mines.

In the early 2000s, the government had accused Niemet of “obstructing peace in the city”, she said, for assisting people who were forced out of their villages and came to her seeking refuge.

As she walked home one evening after helping a heavily pregnant woman find accommodation, Niemat was grabbed from behind.

She told The Sun: “I was wearing a Sudanese saree and trying to get myself free and I couldn’t because he was pulling me and was so strong.

“He tried to reach for his knife from underneath his arm and at that moment I reached into his mask and as soon as I reached into his mask he pushed me.”

Ukrainian Special Forces interrogate Wagner Mercenaries in Sudan

Niemet says she was able to walk away with her life when the attacker fled – but that she lived in fear until she was finally able to escape Sudan.

She was able to flee to the US but believes the threat today’s militias pose to civilians and the world at large is now bigger than it ever was when she lived there.

Speaking from Washington DC, Niemat said: “These militias if they are left without being held accountable, I am quite sure they will create a terrorist hub in Sudan that the international community will have to be forced to fight.

“It’s going to spill over across the region because of the multinational nature of their forces.”

What began last April as a power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) snowballed into a conflict the West must now do everything in its power to contain, an expert warned.

Ashok Swain, a professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University, Sweden, warned that Sudan had become “a fertile recruitment ground” for radical Islamist groups.

He told The Sun: “While the military has the support from Egypt and the West, Russia’s Wagner Group is fighting together with RSF.

“As the West wants the military to win and to keep the Wagner Group away from Sudan, the Wagner Group has a considerable business interest in who wins the ongoing battle for power in the country.

“While the ongoing war in Sudan has made the country lawless and forced a large number of people to be displaced, the country has already become a fertile recruitment ground for the radical Islamist groups.”

In the early days of fighting, the RSF under Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, killed thousands of civilians in at least 10 attacks across El Geneina in West Darfur.

The paramilitary group’s victims were mainly shot at close range after being ordered to lie on the ground or were killed when armed men opened fire into fleeing crowds, a UN report said.

These militias … will create a terrorist hub in Sudan that the international community will have to be forced to fight.

Niemat AhmadiDarfur genocide survivor, activist

Eighty-seven bodies were buried in a mass grave on the outskirts of town.

Niemat said her friend lost his older brother on November 8, when the RSF and Janjaweed militias massacred between 800 and 1,300 people in the village of Ardamata in northeast Geneina.

He told Niemat “we lost everything” and said it was “just a matter of luck” that he didn’t die, too.

Niemat explained: “They were shot at. Whoever showed up, they would be killed. So he wasn’t able to pick up his brother’s body.

“The only reason they survived was because they hid.”

The killings, including of women and children, tragically ramped up over the following months.

Dire conditions in Sudan have led to “the largest displacement of people in the world”, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last month.

An expert on organised crime in Africa from the Institute for Security Studies, Halkano Wario, told The Sun: “To me, there exist conditions that could actually allow for growth of groups, including terrorism groups.”

Smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment amid clashes between the RSF and the SAF

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Smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment amid clashes between the RSF and the SAFCredit: Reuters
Buses wait in line at the Sudanese border of Argeen with Egypt to evacuate people into Egypt

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Buses wait in line at the Sudanese border of Argeen with Egypt to evacuate people into EgyptCredit: AFP
People flee the violence in West Darfur, crossing the border into Adre, Chad

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People flee the violence in West Darfur, crossing the border into Adre, ChadCredit: Reuters
The Ourang refugee camp in Adre where refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan live, photographed in December

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The Ourang refugee camp in Adre where refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan live, photographed in DecemberCredit: AFP
Sudanese women's rights activist Niemat Ahmadi escaped genocide in Darfur 20 years ago

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Sudanese women’s rights activist Niemat Ahmadi escaped genocide in Darfur 20 years ago

Niemat said the RSF militia had grown into “a more sophisticated army, with more training, more equipment, technology, and financial support” in the two decades since she escaped Darfur.

She claimed the warring RSF militia and the SAF, were “two faces of the one coin”, both created by the Sudanese Government.

The activist said: “People within Sudan and now also [all of the] Arab tribes in Darfur have joined the Rapid Support Forces.

“They have multinational militias, and this is what makes it dangerous. They’re coming from Chad, from Central African Republic, from Mali, and Libya.

“It’s not necessarily that these countries are helping them, but they have militias coming from these countries and now they receive supplies through Libya including fuel and more fighters.”

It was their goal, Niemat said, to create “an Arab Islamic empire”, a type of Middle Eastern government that is not democratic but based on Arab nationalism and Islamic ideology.

Many of the Islamic State’s foreign fighters fled to North Africa when the terrorist group was defeated in Iraq in 2017, and Sudan was said to have received weapons and foreign fighters from Libya.

Niemat continued: “Most of these Arab nomads are roaming around across countries … so they are not in one place and they wanted to create a place for them.

“That is how they mobilise other Arabs from other African countries to join so that militias will claim the land and then they will create their own place.”

A senior non-African official in N’Djamena said in July that a full-blown conflict in Sudan would weaken the current head of state of Chad Mahamat Déby’s control of eastern Chad, “which weakens Déby’s control in N’Djamena, which weakens Chad’s stability”.

The official told the Financial Times: “If things go really bad in Sudan and then Chad follows, it isn’t just troubles from Mauritania to the Red Sea – it’s from the Mediterranean to the DRC,” adding that there was “opportunity for meddling by the Russians”.

WAGNER BASE

Russia’s Wagner Group has operated in Sudan since 2017, when Omar Al-Bashir was in power, according to Mr Swain.

The mercenary group also has a base in the Central African Republic bordering Chad.

Mr Swain explained: “It [Wagner] was initially hired to support and train RSF but soon became an ally in fighting rebels in Darfur. That made the Wagner Group close to Hemedti, the leader of RSF.

“The Wagner Group became a partner in his business empire and got the mining rights, particularly gold, for Meroe Gold Limited, owned by Wagner’s owner.

Sudan is said to have received weapons and foreign fighters when the Islamic State was defeated in Iraq in 2017; pictured are IS fighters on the Syria-Iraq border

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Sudan is said to have received weapons and foreign fighters when the Islamic State was defeated in Iraq in 2017; pictured are IS fighters on the Syria-Iraq borderCredit: Alamy
Ukraine's special forces reportedly captured Russia's Wagner mercenaries in Sudan

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Ukraine’s special forces reportedly captured Russia’s Wagner mercenaries in SudanCredit: Kyiv Post
Wagner mercenaries are reportedly spotted during anti-government demonstrations in Khartoum, Sudan

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Wagner mercenaries are reportedly spotted during anti-government demonstrations in Khartoum, Sudan
Members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front gesture as they cheer in the northwestern city of Ariha in 2015

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Members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front gesture as they cheer in the northwestern city of Ariha in 2015Credit: Reuters

“In return, the Wagner Group is used by RSF to strengthen its power vis-a-vis the Military and also the group that demands democracy and protection of human rights.”

Last year, a parliamentary report suggested Russia’s economy was being kept afloat by “critical” gold-smuggling operations by Wagner – then led by Yevgeny Prigozhin – out of Sudan.

Mr Wario said the Russian group was perhaps the only “non-Arab-based” group linked to the ongoing war in Sudan, but numerous countries were supporting one of the warring military factions.

He said: “For example, UAE has been increasingly linked with RSF in terms of funding, in terms of provision of weapons.

“While Burhan’s (Sudanese army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s) side has been linked with some of the other regional countries and the neighbours of Sudan.”

Ukraine’s special forces appeared in a video released last month to have captured Russia’s Wagner mercenaries fighting in Sudan.

A Russian prisoner kneeled in the clip beside two African men, each bound, blindfolded, and dressed in military khakis.

When asked by a Ukrainian interrogator which unit they belonged to, the Russian captive responded: “PMC Wagner.”

The mercenary explained that with a force of about 100, their mission was “to overthrow the local government”.

Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, this month condemned the “ruthless, senseless” conflict in Sudan and the “gross violations and abuses of international human rights law” committed by both the SAF and the RSF.

He said his Office documented 60 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, involving at least 120 victims – although that was “a vast underrepresentation of the reality”.

Men in RSF uniform and armed men affiliated with the RSF were reported to be responsible for 81 per cent of the documented incidents, he said.

Mr Türk continued: “My Office has received disturbing reports of ethnically motivated killings, including beheadings in North Kordofan, and incidents in various areas, including Khartoum State, West Darfur, and Al Jazirah State.”

He said he was also “deeply worried” for the fate of thousands of civilians being held captive by the SAF and the RSF, many who have allegedly been tortured and many who have died from their wounds.

About 80 per cent of hospitals have been put out of service and almost half of the population, 25 million people, are in urgent need of food and medical care.

The High Commissioner called on the warring parties to immediately open humanitarian corridors before more lives are lost.

Deaths in Africa linked to militant Islamist violence jumped by 20 per cent in a year, from 19,412 in 2022 to 23,322 in 2023 – a new record, a study by Africa Centre for Strategic Studies found.

UN Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari said last year that Africa was emerging “as the key battleground for terrorism, with a major increase in the number of active groups operating on the continent”.

He noted that political, economic, and social “fractures”, as well as porous borders and “identity-based mobilisation”, had put Africa at the forefront of terrorism.

Sudanese army soldiers, loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, pose for a picture at the RSF base in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan in April last year

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Sudanese army soldiers, loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, pose for a picture at the RSF base in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan in April last yearCredit: AFP
RSF fighters ride in the back of a technical vehicle in the East Nile district of greater Khartoum

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RSF fighters ride in the back of a technical vehicle in the East Nile district of greater KhartoumCredit: AFP
A man stands by as a fire rages in a livestock market area in al-Fasher, the capital of Sudan’s North Darfur state, in September last year

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A man stands by as a fire rages in a livestock market area in al-Fasher, the capital of Sudan’s North Darfur state, in September last yearCredit: AFP
A fighter of the Wagner private military force stands at an informal memorial next to the former ‘PMC Wagner Centre’ in St Petersburg, Russia

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A fighter of the Wagner private military force stands at an informal memorial next to the former ‘PMC Wagner Centre’ in St Petersburg, RussiaCredit: AP
Smoke rises during clashes between the SAF and the RSF in Khartoum, Sudan on April 19 last year

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Smoke rises during clashes between the SAF and the RSF in Khartoum, Sudan on April 19 last yearCredit: Getty
Members of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which backs the army, parade in the streets of Gedaref in eastern Sudan earlier this month

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Members of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which backs the army, parade in the streets of Gedaref in eastern Sudan earlier this monthCredit: AFP
Sudanese supporters of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which supports the army, ride on trucks in Gedaref

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Sudanese supporters of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which supports the army, ride on trucks in GedarefCredit: AFP
RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, speaks during a press conference at RSF headquarters in Khartoum

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RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, speaks during a press conference at RSF headquarters in KhartoumCredit: Reuters
A fire breaks out after a house was hit in the Lamab district during clashes between the SAF and the RSF in April last year

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A fire breaks out after a house was hit in the Lamab district during clashes between the SAF and the RSF in April last yearCredit: Getty
The warring factions are now fighting for control over streets and areas within Sudan

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The warring factions are now fighting for control over streets and areas within SudanCredit: Getty

Timeline of the War in Sudan

THE brutal war between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out in Sudan in April last year.

More than 15,000 people have been killed and 33,000 others injured.

Here is a timeline of the War in Sudan (2023 to present):

APRIL 15, 2023: Heavy fighting erupts in the capital Khartoum and other cities after weeks of tensions over a plan between warring parties to hand power of the country over to civilians.

APR 21: Residents flee Khartoum in large numbers as areas across the city are subjected to army strikes, clashes, and looting by the RSF.

MAY 20: Sudan’s warring factions agree to seven-day ceasefire at talks convened by Saudi Arabia and the US in Jeddah to allow for delivery of humanitarian aid. Violations of the deal by both sides are later reported.

JUNE 14: Thousands of civilians try to flee to Chad but are targeted.

JULY 12: The UK announces sanctions on firms linked to the SAF and the RSF for providing funds and weapons in the war.

JUL 13: The bodies of 87 people allegedly killed by the RSF in June are discovered in a mass grave outside Geneina. The RSF denies responsibility for their deaths. The ICC says it has launched an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the course of the war.

JUL 26: The RSF seizes control of the town of Sirba in West Darfur.

JUL 28: Hemedti says he is willing to negotiate and reach a peace agreement within 72 hours if the leaders of the SAF step down.

AUGUST 4: The RSF claims to have taken full control over Central Darfur.

SEPTEMBER 3: Yousef Izzat, an adviser to Hemedti, meets with African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki to discuss ending the war.

SEPT 8: Drone strikes are launched against RSF positions in Khartoum, reportedly “likely” carried out by Ukrainian special forces against the paramilitaries receiving military support from Russia’s Wagner Group.

SEPT 21: Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan urges the international community to declare the RSF a terrorist organisation, warning the conflict could “spill over to other countries in the region”.

OCTOBER 6: The RSF claims to have seized control of Al-Ailafoon.

OCT 26: The RSF says it has control of Nyala and SAF headquarters in the city. Negotiations between the SAF and the RSF resume in Jeddah.

NOVEMBER 7: Saudi Arabia says no progress towards a ceasefire has been reached during negotiations.

NOV 8: The RSF reportedly closes the border between Sudan and Chad.

DECEMBER 18: The RSF claims to have taken full control over Gezira State.

DEC 31: The RSF seizes control of Habila, South Kordofan. Hemedti visits Djibouti and meets with the president and concurrent IGAD chair Omar Guelleh to discuss a peace agreement.

JANUARY 1, 2024: Hemedti agrees to release 451 captives held by the RSF, ensure humanitarian access and protection of civilians, and commit to a ceasefire through direct negotiations with the SAF.

JAN 5: Burhan rejects an agreement brokered for him to meet with Hemedti as well as the ceasefire agreement signed by the latter.

JAN 12: Hemedti holds a phone call with UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

JAN 13: Burhan rejects an invitation by IGAD to attend a summit in Uganda to be also attended by Hemedti.

JAN 14: The SAF regains control over neighbourhoods of Omdurman.

JAN 18: Hemedti meets with leaders of IGAD member states at the IGAD summit in Kampala.

JAN 20: The Sudanese government suspends the country’s membership in IGAD in retaliation for Hemedti’s attendance at its summit.

JAN 30: Burhan orders the SAF to launch a full-scale offensive against the RSF.

JAN 31: The US imposes sanctions on two firms linked to the RSF and its gold export business and a third for helping finance an SAF-run weapons company already sanctioned by Washington.

FEBRUARY 26: The SAF regains control of the Abrof neighbourhood of Omdurman from the RSF.

MARCH 5: The RSF claims to have taken control of El Medina Arab, Gezira State.

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