Thursday, May 23, 2024

Drone Attack Hits Sudan Army Targets, Ends Lull in Violence for Eastern City

HomeWARDrone Attack Hits Sudan Army Targets, Ends Lull in Violence for Eastern...

AL-QADARIF, Sudan — The tenuous peace that had allowed this dusty eastern city to become a haven for millions of Sudanese fleeing war was blown apart on Tuesday. Drones streaked across the morning sky, their payloads smashing into army bases in a surprise attack that shattered Al-Qadarif’s fragile oasis of calm.

At least three unmanned aerial vehicles pounded Sudanese military positions and intelligence facilities in the Al-Qadarif region, sources said. While the strikes did not cause catastrophic damage, their implications could prove seismic—pulling the oil-rich east, which had largely avoided the nation’s civil war until now, into the inferno convulsing the rest of Sudan.

“One drone struck the state security headquarters, but it didn’t level the place,” said a security official in Al-Qadarif, speaking anonymously amid spiraling insecurity. Nearby, another drone’s munitions gouged craters in the unforgiving desert sands.

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As the drones’ haunting buzz faded, the staccato crunch of anti-aircraft artillery shook the city. Shopkeepers slammed shutters and civilians fled deep into winding alleyways, fearing escalating mayhem after nearly a year of relative respite from Sudan’s wider unraveling.

“The situation is now safe—but tense,” Al-Qadarif’s governor, Mohammed Abdelrahman, insisted hours later, promising a reinforced security presence across the state.

Such assurances, however, did little to quell the swelling angst in a region that had opened its doors to offer sanctuary from the bloody conflict between Sudan’s military and a rebel paramilitary force that erupted last April.

The fighting pit the Sudanese army against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a militia born from Janjaweed fighters who once rampaged in Darfur. Though the rival factions had jointly ruled after ousting dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, a power struggle threw the country into chaos.

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As the battle for Khartoum raged in 2023, an estimated 8.6 million Sudanese—over 15% of the population—sought refuge, many in the relatively stable east. The U.N. says nearly 500,000 displaced civilians now shelter in Al-Qadarif alone, their tents blanketing the region.

The east also became a lifeline for aid agencies addressing Sudan’s metastasizing humanitarian catastrophe. With famine spreading and disease outbreaks flaring amid the collapsed health system, Port Sudan emerged as the UN’s default base after Khartoum became engulfed. Nearly all foreign relief for desperate Sudanese now flows through the east’s ports.

Burying these fragile havens under fresh violence, Tuesday’s drone barrage signaled the war’s continued spread—particularly concerning after reports that the army made progress toward the Nile River breadbasket of Al-Jazirah. The fertile region’s capital Wad Madani has been under RSF control since December.

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In Darfur, witnesses said Sudanese warplanes unleashed deadly strikes Tuesday on RSF-held cities like Nyala, Al-Daien and El Fasher. Both sides have been accused of war crimes, from indiscriminate bombardment of urban areas to ethnically-motivated atrocities.

A 2023 UN inquiry accused the army of failing “to protect civilians” in Darfur, instead resorting to “aerial bombings and heavy shelling” that caused “the heaviest losses” among trapped residents.

With diplomacy to broker a true ceasefire collapsing, Sudan’s future grows murkier by the day. Should longstanding oases like Al-Qadarif be swallowed by the conflict’s rapid metastasis, even more civilians may find themselves trapped in harrowing violence with nowhere to turn.

As dusk settled over the city, the undulating throb of drone propellers returned—a chilling harbinger, perhaps, of the cataclysms Yemen once braved now arriving on Sudan’s blood-soaked shores.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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