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Sudan: What we know so far about detention of Egyptian soldiers by RSF

The troops, detained on Saturday, have been transferred to the capital Khartoum. But neither warring side has announced when they will return to Egypt
A screengrab from a video published by the Rapid Support Forces shows Egyptian soldiers crouched on ground after being captured on Saturday at Merowe air base, Sudan (Twitter)

The fate of Egyptian soldiers captured during the ongoing hostilities in Sudan remains unknown on the fifth day of the armed conflict between the country's top military leaders. 

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary released a video on Saturday showing a number of Egyptian troops that it claimed had "surrendered" to its forces when it stormed Merowe airport during the ongoing hostilities.

The footage showed several men wearing military-style clothing, sitting on the ground and speaking with members of the RSF in an Egyptian Arabic dialect. 

On Wednesday, the RSF said it moved the captured soldiers to Khartoum, but it remains unclear whether they will return to Egypt anytime soon. Some Arab media outlets on Wednesday reported that a batch of Egyptian soldiers were returning to the country but there was no official confirmation of the reports.

"We assure the families and government of Egypt that the soldiers who were present at the Merowe military base are all safe and receiving the necessary care," the RSF said on Twitter. "They will be handed over when the appropriate opportunity arises, according to the conditions the country is going through."

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The RSF also released a video on Saturday claiming it had captured the strategic Merowe air base, located around 186 miles north of Khartoum. The footage showed a number of Egyptian MiG-29M/M2 Fulcrum fighter jets which were used in joint Sudanese-Egyptian drills in 2020. 

While the official spokesman of the Egyptian army said the troops were in Sudan as part of military exercises, there was no explanation as to why they were not flown out of the country after clashes between rival armed forces in Sudan started over the weekend. 

Additionally, there had been no official announcement regarding the presence of Egyptian troops in Sudan, following the end of the latest joint exercises announced last month.

Mahmoud Gamal, an Egyptian military affairs analyst, ruled out that the Egyptian forces were at the airbase due to joint military exercises as claimed. 

"The videos show what looks like a military battalion," Gamal told Middle East Eye.

"Military exercises are specific in nature, whether on land, air or sea. But the officers arrested by the RSF belong to different army units, including infantry, and air defence forces." 

Egypt claims neutrality

On Monday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said the troops were in Sudan to conduct exercises with their Sudanese counterparts and were not supporting any warring parties. Sisi has said he is in contact with the RSF to assure the troops' safety. 

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Sisi has supported the military leader and de facto ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in the power struggle between him and RSF leader, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti.

But on Wednesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Cairo sees the current conflict as "an internal matter", reiterating Sisi's comments earlier this week.

The armed clashes between RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in Sudan have so far killed at least 270 people and wounded more than 2,600 since fighting began Saturday, according to the latest figures announced by the director-general of the UN's World Health Organisation, Tedros Ghebreyesus. RSF said on Wednesday that it has agreed to a 24-hour ceasefire, starting at 6pm local time. But Sudan's army has yet to confirm whether it will abide by the proposed truce.

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