West Darfur state governor has been killed after publicly blaming the deaths of civilians on Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as the conflict spreads in the African nation.
The Sudanese army blamed the RSF for killing governor Khamis Abakar on Wednesday, depicting the murder as a “brutal act”, which was carried out hours after Abakar accused the RSF and allied fighters of “genocide“.
No details on his death were available, but the army accused the RSF of “kidnapping and assassinating” the governor.
Just before his death on Wednesday, Abakar said, “Civilians are being killed randomly and in large numbers.”
The killing of the governor meant the RSF has added a “new chapter to its record of barbaric crimes that it has been committing against all the Sudanese people,” the army said on Facebook.
Over the past two months, the army headed by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the RSF commanded by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo have been locked in urban combat which has so far killed at least 1,800 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project’s (ACLED) latest figures from last month.
The fighting now spreads to the provinces, particularly to the cities of the western region of Darfur.
While the attacks originally targeted areas of El Geneina where members of the Masalit tribe lived, these attacks have spread to the entire city, the governor said. “We haven’t seen the army leave its base to defend people.”
The RSF, which called the fighting in El Geneina a tribal conflict, said it had been making efforts to get aid into the city.
In the meantime, the fighting is spreading into the capital of South Darfur, according to the Darfur Bar Association — a local group monitoring the fighting — which said that artillery strikes hit civilian homes in the area after RSF soldiers complained of not receiving salaries.
Also in El Obeid, a hub between Khartoum and Darfur in North Kordofan, the army launched air and artillery strikes against RSF positions, according to witnesses.
The RSF has controlled the roads connecting the city to other towns and has agreed with local tribal leaders to secure the area from armed gangs.
The city of Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur, was under siege, the association said.
The head of the United Nations mission in Sudan said Tuesday that attacks in Darfur region could amount to crimes against humanity.
The situation in Darfur “continues to deteriorate,” Volker Perthes said, adding that “these reports are deeply worrying and, if verified, could amount to crimes against humanity.”
Several ceasefires have so far been violated and diplomatic efforts led by the United States and Saudi Arabia to address the conflict have faltered.