After three days of intense fighting, Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have seized Wad Madani, the East African country’s second city.

This marks a strategic gain for the paramilitary group in its eight-month-long war against the national government and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).

“Our operation included the liberation of the central reserve camp and the strategic Hantoob Bridge from the eastern side,” the RSF said in a statement on X (formerly Twitter).

Wad Madani had taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees from the capital of Khartoum, which the RSF took over in June.

Six million people have been forced tp flee their homes across Sudan – the largest internal displacement crisis in the world.

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RSF consolidates control of central Sudan

More than 10,000 people have been killed since the war broke out in April, following tensions over how the RSF would be integrated into the SAF.

RSF General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo declared direct confrontation with his senior, SAF General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, despite the pair working together to topple the al-Bashir regime in 2019.

Fighting between the RSF and SAF has largely concentrated around the capital city of Khartoum and the western region of Darfur.

The RSF has advanced on most of Sudan’s major cities, controlling most of Khartoum and four of Darfur’s states.

The SAF and national government still control Sudan’s eastern states, the Nile River north of Khartoum, and the country’s Red Sea ports.

War crimes from both sides

Both sides were accused of looting homes and markets in Wad Madani on Sunday and Monday (17 and 18 December).

The RSF has also committed large-scale ethnically motivated killings in West Darfur.

Upon seizing control of Ardamata, RSF soldiers allegedly went “door-to-door” rounding up and killing hundreds of people from the Masalit ethnic community, according to the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and Amnesty International.

The RSF has roots in the Janjaweed militias, used by the Sudanese government to violently suppress insurgency during the 17-year-long Darfur conflict, which began in 2003.

International military forces and aid organisations watch on with concern as the RSF, having gained the upper hand in the brutal conflict, set their sights on Sudan’s southern and eastern states.

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