The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) say they seized control of the base of the 21st Division of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in Zalingei, Central Darfur, at 02:00 today. The claim follows the confirmed capture by the RSF of the important 16th Infantry Division base in the South Darfur capital of Nyala on Thursday, and further reports that the paramilitaries have ‘liberated’ Balila oilfield and airport in West Kordofan.
In a video clip posted on X (formerly Twitter), RSF Commander Ali Yagoub, surrounded by a group of his paramilitaries, says that they have taken 50 SAF officers and hundreds of soldiers prisoner, after taking control of the 21st Division base in Zalingei. Commander Yagoub says he will publish video clips from inside the office of the commander of the division.
It has been difficult for Radio Dabanga to independently confirm the authenticity of claims, however, the RSF announced yesterday that its second commander was leading the “Battle of Zalingei”. RSF soldiers published video clips from inside the base, showing their complete control over it, while sources close to the army reported that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) withdrew from the base by Monday evening.
Yesterday morning, Seifeldin Abdallah, a resident of Zalingei, told Radio Dabanga of renewed exchanges of artillery shelling between the army and the RSF. “A child was killed and three people were injured when a shell fell on the Hasaheisa camp for the displaced in Zalingei.”
He said that a large RSF force arrived in Zalingei on Sunday and spread over the eastern, northern, and western parts of the city. “The force arrived in Zalingei after the capture of Nyala was completed.”
The arrival of the force in Zalingei led to terror and panic in the city and caused the closure of the Grand Market and the markets of Merin and Abuja neighbourhoods. Farmers took shelter on their farms in anticipation of an all-out attack on the city, he said.
The paramilitaries previously took control of most of the army sites in the other parts of Central Darfur.
The RSF besieged the Hasaheisa camp for the displaced, adjacent to the army base for weeks, preventing water and food from entering the camp under the pretext that army soldiers obtained their food supplies from the camp.
‘Balance of power’
The paramilitary group, fighting the army since April 15, also controls West Darfur, except for two localities.
As previously reported by Radio Dabanga, the RSF claimed ‘complete control’ of the 16th Infantry Division base in Nyala on Thursday, after having besieged it for three days, before arriving in Zalingei. The RSF also claims to have “inflicted heavy losses on the army, destroyed many military vehicles, and seized military equipment”.
RSF control of the South Darfur capital potentially has deep implications for the balance of power in the ongoing conflict, as it is the largest city in the Darfur region, and the largest city and commercial centre in Sudan after Khartoum.
Last month, the Darfur Bar Association warned that the RSF would “settle combat operations in South Darfur, with the city of Nyala as its centre,” leading to more tribal disputes and clashes in the region.
People fear that the RSF now will move towards El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, “which could lead to an exodus and a new humanitarian crisis”.
El Fasher is currently witnessing ongoing clashes between the army and the RSF. The paramilitaries control the eastern part of the city. Members of the joint rebel force are deployed, accompanied by the police, to secure markets, banks, and other vital facilities.
East Darfur has not witnessed any battles since the war erupted on April 15.
As reported by Radio Dabanga yesterday, the RSF took control of the Balila oilfield and the Balila Airport in Es Salam, West Kordofan, claiming to have “liberated the airport” and “inflicted heavy losses, in both lives and equipment” on the SAF.