Massacre in West Darfur: Over 4,000 dead after Sudanese paramilitary group attacked refugee camp

Al Jazeera reported 1,300 deaths at Ardamata camp, while Sudan's foreign ministry estimates the death toll is 'four times' that figure. 'Land of the Masalit? There is no more land for the Masalit,' chanted a paramilitary fighter in Arabic.

Massacre in West Darfur: Over 4,000 dead after Sudanese paramilitary group attacked refugee camp
AP Photo, File
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Sudan's Foreign Ministry claimed as many as 4,000 people are dead after a rogue paramilitary group opened fire on refugees in West Darfur.

On November 2, Sudan's Rapid Support Forces (RSF) encircled a camp composed of displaced people from regional Masalit tribes, following their assault on a military base in the region. The ensuing attacks spanned several days and is widely considered the worst atrocity of Sudan's ongoing civil war.

According to the National News, nearly six million people have fled their homes since April, including 1.2 million who crossed to neighbouring nations, mainly Chad, which borders Darfur, and Egypt and South Sudan.

"They went house to house to search for men and killed each one they found," said Montesser Saddam, who narrowly avoided the massacre to Chad in a desperate bid to flee the country. "There were so many corpses in the streets," he added.

According to reports from local observers to Al Jazeera, approximately 1,300 individuals lost their lives, and 2,000 more sustained injuries. Another 310 remained unaccounted for, per their estimates. However, the foreign ministry contends the death toll is nearly four times the figure cited over the weekend.

Activists and survivors claim the Ardamata camp atrocities form a broader effort by the RSF and their allied militias to eliminate the non-Arab Masalit tribe from West Darfur. A local human rights group reported last week's attack killed at least six tribal leaders and their families, including 85-year-old Mohamad Arbab, his son, and eight grandchildren. The Darfur Bar Association also confirmed the death of Masalit tribal leader Abdelbasit Dina, along with his wife, son, and 50 community members.

"It has been a month since I last heard from my family," said Darfur activist El Domam. "They may be dead or stuck in refugee camps in Chad."

"The suffering in Darfur is far greater than the world realizes," he added. "It's genocide and I can only blame the RSF as well as the army."

El Domam, who recently fled Darfur for central Sudan, contends Darfur has "not had a day of peace for more than two decades."

From the commencement of Sudan's civil war, the United Nations and Western countries have denounced the deliberate extermination and forced relocation of the Masalit people from their territories. However, these condemnations and expressions of worry have not hindered the RSF from committing further heinous acts.

For years, the central government of Sudan has overlooked the needs of non-Arab farmers and Arab herders in Darfur, leading them into competition over scarce fertile lands and limited water supplies. According to the UN, half of Sudan's population of nearly 50 million need immediate assistance.

The situation worsened under former President Omar al-Bashir, who fueled tribal conflicts as part of his strategy to divide and conquer. In 2003, he equipped Arab tribal militias to suppress a non-Arab rebellion against the economic and political sidelining of Darfur.

That conflict left approximately 300,000 dead, including the victims of famine and disease. It displaced an additional 2.5 million people.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Cairo, Egypt, Nahid Hamid, a Masalit human rights lawyer, said the RSF "want to ethnically cleanse us." She provided the publication with a video she discovered a few weeks ago, which depicts a paramilitary fighter brandishing a machine gun and addressing the camera.

"Land of the Masalit? There is no more land for the Masalit," chanted the fighter in Arabic.

Hamid highlighted the strategy of eliminating leaders to replace them with RSF supporters or Arab mercenaries from nations like Chad and Niger. The RSF had earlier assassinated West Darfur's governor, Khamis Abubbakr, on June 16, shortly after he labeled the regional killings as "genocide" on Al-Hadath.

The U.S. imposed sanctions on Abdel Raheem Dagalo, the RSF's deputy chief, and local commander Abdul Rahman Juma, for their roles in the atrocities in West Darfur, including the governor's murder.

On November 8, the US embassy in Sudan expressed concern via X regarding reports the RSF named Juma the commander of a military garrison they seized last week.

This is a developing story.

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