Members of African ethnic groups in Sudan’s Darfur region appear to have been rounded up by members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and other Arab militias, according to videos and images verified and geolocated by CNN.
The videos emerged over the past two weeks. In one of them shared online and geolocated to Ardamata, an outlying district in El Geneina city in West Darfur state, racist slurs can be heard as men in fatigues refer to the captives as “dogs” and tell them to “gather here”.
In another cut of the video, the same men in fatigues can be seen whipping the men. At one point the men appear to be forced to run down the street. A man fires shots.
In another video, filmed less than a five-minute drive from the first video, the RSF logo appears visible on the uniforms of some of the men dressed in light colored fatigues who appear to be controlling the men huddled together on the ground. The word “liquidation” is mentioned and the words “slay them.”
The RSF on November 4 announced it had taken over the main army base in El Geneina (the 15th division headquarters), close to where these videos were filmed.
A Reuters reporter spoke to three men fleeing from Darfur into Chad on November 7 who said they had witnessed killings by Arab militias and RSF forces targeting the Masalit ethnic group in Ardamata, the news agency reported.
“Sickening reports and images coming from Ardamata, West Darfur, inc [sic] of assassinations, grave violations and massacres of civilians, following RSF takeover of area. Those with authority must uphold international humanitarian law, protect civilians, ensure rule of law and provide unfettered humanitarian access to vulnerable persons,” the UN’s deputy humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Toby Harward, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
In another video that circulated on Tuesday, over a dozen bodies are piled together in what appears to be a mass grave. Three men inside the ditch throw sand on the bodies in an apparently half-hearted attempt to bury them. A voice from behind the camera barks orders at them.
It is unclear where the video was filmed, but one of the men helping bury the dead says he is from El Geneina. Halfway through the video, a man sits up from among the bodies, the dust falling off his face.
“Hey! That guy’s alive,” shouts a voice from behind the camera. “Kill him,” shouts another man shortly before the video ends.
CNN does not know the fate of the men concerned. It’s also unclear whether the men filmed in the ditch are the same men as those seen in the video running from RSF soldiers and militia loyal to the RSF.
The RSF has denied that “any incidents of ethnic cleansing or tribal conflict took place in the Ardmetta [Ardamata] area of El Geneina, West Darfur State.”
In a statement responding to questions from CNN last Wednesday, the RSF said it does not target civilians and that its forces are “fighting side-by-side with the people of Sudan to restore our country to its rightful path of civilian-led democratic rule.”
The paramilitary group said, however, that as a result of the conflict between RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in the Ardamata neighborhood, their actions “did unfortunately result in the displacement of civilians” as the military zone is located amid residential areas.
“The conflict ended with our forces seizing control of the SAF 15th Infantry Division and liberating the division headquarters,” the statement said, adding that “since the division was liberated, Ardmetta has seen no further acts of aggression or armed conflict. Residents have returned to their homes, and security has stabilized, allowing life to resume as normal.”
New surge in killings
Amid the most significant increase in displacement in months, aid agencies operating in Chad say arrivals from Sudan have been describing a new surge in killings and fighting in West Darfur.
Ethnic-related killings have intensified since fighting broke out mid-April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF, according to witnesses and aid groups operating in the region.
In September, the United Nations’ human rights body (UNJHRO) said it had received reports of at least 13 mass graves in El Geneina believed to contain civilians from the ethnic Masalit tribe who were allegedly killed in attacks by the RSF and allied Arab militias.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said Tuesday that, following increased fighting in El Geneina, its teams working across the border in eastern Chad have seen an “immediate and major increase in the number of people arriving in the region.”
“Our people there in Ardamata were killed and displaced. Children are slaughtered, women’s money and belongings are robbed, and they can’t escape,” one Sudanese woman, Nabila Abdel Rahman, told Reuters on Tuesday.
In neighboring South Sudan, the UN’s humanitarian agency (OCHA) said there has also been a “significant increase in Sudanese refugees in the past few days.”
MSF said a 27-year-old man had told staff at its hospital in Adré, Chad, that he fled El Geneina with 16 other people, but their group was attacked on the road to Chad. He said the attackers killed everyone, but he survived by playing dead.
“Eventually a new group of refugees arrived and helped him reach the border. He has multiple bullet wounds on his hands and legs,” the MSF news release said.
A pattern of abuse
The incidents described to aid agencies follow a pattern of similar alleged abuses by the RSF since the conflict began, according to multiple CNN reports.
“In the first three days of November, we have seen more new arrivals of Sudanese refugees than during the whole previous month; about 7,000 people crossed the border,” MSF outreach coordinator, Stephanie Hoffmann, said.
UN refugee agency (UNHCR) director of external relations Dominique Hyde said she witnessed a surge in human suffering when she visited Sudan last week.
In the Darfur region, fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and RSF has caused even more displacement with thousands struggling to find shelter and many sleeping under trees by the roadside, a UNCHR news release said.
“Child malnutrition is rampant, women are being raped, violence prevails and entire families are sleeping outside with no roof over their heads,” Hyde wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Since the war in Sudan broke out in April, 4.5 million people have been internally displaced and an estimated 1.2 million have fled to neighbouring countries, according to UNHCR.
On November 7, the US State Department announced that during talks in Jeddah, the SAF and RSF “committed to take steps to facilitate increased humanitarian assistance, and to implement confidence-building measures.”
They were unable to agree on a ceasefire implementation.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, IGAD, also on behalf of the African Union, and the United States call upon the SAF and RSF to put the Sudanese people first, silence the guns, and seek a negotiated end to this needless war,” a joint statement from the talks released by the State Department said.
They came after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called for an “immediate cessation of attacks” in El Fasher in North Darfur.
“The United States is deeply troubled by reports of an imminent large-scale attack by Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on El Fasher, North Darfur, that would subject civilians, including hundreds of thousands of displaced persons – many of whom only recently fled to El Fasher from other areas – to extreme danger,” Blinken said in a press statement on November 2.
CNN’s Sarah Dean and David McKenzie reported from South Africa and Allegra Goodwin from London.
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com