Sudan’s RSF captures key army stronghold of el-Fula

Capture of el-Fula deepens humanitarian crisis, as charity MSF slams ‘deeply inadequate’ response to war.

Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have taken control of el-Fula, the capital of West Kordofan state, sources told Al Jazeera.

The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) fought the RSF for several hours before withdrawing from the city, with the paramilitary group seizing government and military headquarters, the sources said on Thursday.

Reporting from Khartoum, Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan said the capture of el-Fula was “significant”, being one of only two army bases in strategically located West Kordofan, with a power station.

Centrally positioned, el-Fula affords access to regional and national borders. “So there are concerns the RSF would be able to have, not just more control of territory around the country, but also the power station there,” she said.

The army, meanwhile, had retreated to Babanusa, its one remaining base in the region. “If the RSF takes control of Babanusa as well, then that gives them more control of territory in the entire country, which they say is their goal,” said Morgan.

The assault on el-Fula, she said, was “not surprising”, given that the paramilitary group had repeatedly said they were targeting positions of the Sudanese army, not just in the Darfur region, but also elsewhere around the country.

The takeover of the army stronghold, which has led to more civilians fleeing their homes, came as medical charity Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, slammed the humanitarian response to one of the world’s “worst crises” in decades as “deeply inadequate”.

“There are extreme levels of suffering across the country, and the needs are growing by the day,” Christos Christou, international president of MSF, said on Thursday in a post on social media platform X.

Aid blocks

With repeated outbreaks of fighting between the SAF and the RSF around Babanusa in recent weeks, it was uncertain whether aid agencies would be able to reach the displaced, said Al Jazeera’s Morgan.

“Aid agencies have been saying that they’ve been having difficulties reaching West Kordofan region along with other parts of the country,” she said.

“It’s likely that with the fighting in el-Fula and with civilians being displaced, the needs of those needing humanitarian assistance will rise.”

War has raged for more than a year between the regular military under army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the RSF, led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo.

The conflict, which began in April 2023, has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and displaced more than 10 million people, making it the world’s worst internal displacement crisis, according to the United Nations.

Both sides have been accused of war crimes, including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid, despite warnings that millions are on the brink of starvation.

Rights groups and the United States have also accused the paramilitaries of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies