Fighting nears the Wad Madani bridge
Thousands flee after RSF launch surprise attack on Jezira State capital
Fighting raged for a second day Saturday in the eastern suburbs of Wad Madani, Abu Haraz and Hantoob, as thousands of civilians scrambled to flee the city.
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) launched an attack from Khartoum State toward Wad Madani on December 15, traveling overnight and bypassing army positions in northern Jezira State before arriving in eastern suburbs of Wad Madani at dawn.
The attack happened six days after the RSF commander-in-chief, Mohamed Dagalo, told East African leaders by phone that he accepted their proposal for an “unconditional ceasefire,” according to a communiqué of the IGAD Secretariat.
Widespread fears that Wad Madani’s defenses could be overrun, and rumors that RSF already entered the city, have sparked an exodus of civilians along roads to the south, toward Sennar and Gedaref States.
According to our analysis of open source information, including videos posted by combatants, RSF have advanced into Hantoob from both the north and the east. They captured the Central Reserve Police headquarters and the courthouse, among other locations. They have advanced within about 1.5 km of the bridge.
The Blue Nile River is the next major obstacle impeding their advance, though the army are still fighting to retain a foothold on the eastern bank in Hantoob. The army may also still have some forces present in Abu Haraz, where they had a training camp.
Warplanes belonging to the Sudan Armed Forces have carried out airstrikes against the attacking force, with unconfirmed results.
Meanwhile, military authorities carried out mass arrests on an ethnic basis in Wad Madani, as paranoia about "sleeper cells" swept the city.
There has been sporadic shooting on the west bank, in Wad Madani itself, but a local source told Sudan War Monitor that this was from SAF, not RSF. Military sources cited in the Sudanese press said the situation in Wad Madani is under control and confirmed the closure of Hantoob bridge as a security measure.
We have not verified any presence of RSF troops in Wad Madani itself, though RSF have troops farther to the north in Jezira State, and could launch attacks from that direction. In the northeast of Jezira State, RSF troops were seen yesterday and today in several villages, including Wad Rawah and Tamboul, though it’s unclear if they occupied these villages or just passed through them.
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Wad Madani is defended by the 1st Infantry Division, along with elements of other units. The SAF Commander-in-Chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, gave a speech earlier this month in which he said that the division wasn’t combat-ready:
“The 1st Division is an emerging unit that wasn't prepared to enter a battle [at the beginning of the war], and now it has established a compact force that can defend Sudan, Jezira state, and support the SAF. The 1st Division has supported all SAF marching units that came via Jezira, and we will increase 1st Division readiness and empower it to become a launch base to liberate the rest of Sudan."
Major General Ahmed Al-Tayeb, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, gave a statement Friday through the state news agency, SUNA, saying that his forces had fought bravely and claiming that they inflicted “huge losses” on the RSF attackers. He said that they would fight to the death to defend the city, if necessary.
Video of one of the invading RSF columns on the morning of December 15:
Video of a fire and RSF troops near the Abu Haraz Bridge, which crosses the Rahad River near where it flows into the Nile, north of Wad Madani, December 15, 2023
Video of RSF troops with two dead SAF soldiers, 1.5 km from the Wad Madani bridge:
Video of RSF at the Central Reserve base in Hantoob (14.440989, 33.54339):
Video of fighting in Hantoob on December 15:
Video of civilians fleeing south toward Sennar State:
In other news…
Heavy fighting erupted Saturday in northern neighborhoods of El Fasher. According to a reporter for Darfur 24, the fighting extended into the Abushuk IDP camp, while other sources reported fighting near the Mellit Gate.
The Chadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday declared four Sudanese diplomats persona non grata: Mohamed Mukhtar Bilal Abdelsalam al-Bass, First Counselor; Abdel Rahim El Awad Eltoum, Military Attache; El Hag Abdalla El Hag Ahmed, consul in Ndjamena; and Mohamed El Haj Bakhit Farah, deputy consul general in Abéché. They were warned to leave within 72 hours.
In a press release, the Chadian foreign ministry said the reason for this measure was the recent remarks by the SAF Assistant Commander in Chief, Yasser al-Atta, accusing Chad of interfering in the Sudanese conflict. “These accusations were reiterated, surprisingly, by the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali al Sadig, in a recent local TV broadcast.” The statement called the accusations “unacceptable and unamicable.” It pointed out that Chad has welcomed hundreds of thousands of recent Sudanese refugees.
During the previous Darfur rebellion, Chad and Sudan fought a proxy war, during which Sudanese-backed Chadian rebels attacked the capital Ndjamena in 2006 and 2008; they were repulsed with assistance of the French military.
The governor of Wad Madani declared a curfew and banned the use of motorcycles in Medani Locality, as a security measure.
The governor of Gedaref State declared a state of emergency and a curfew which is in effect from 6:00 in the evening until 6:00 in the morning.
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