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Sudan: US-backed monitor says 'highly likely' RSF killed West Darfur governor

The Sudan Observatory assesses Khamis Abdullah Abakar death in captivity was an extrajudicial killing
A member of the RSF forces walks around the destroyed Air Defence Forces command site in Khartoum on 14 June (Reuters)
A member of the RSF forces walks around the destroyed Air Defence Forces command site in Khartoum on 14 June (Reuters)

A US-backed conflict observatory said it was "highly likely" that Sudan's Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary killed the governor of West Darfur.

The Sudan Conflict Observatory, which the US State Department supports, said in an analysis on Thursday it "assesses the death of West Darfur Governor Khamis Abdullah Abakar to be an extrajudicial killing highly likely perpetrated by RSF" after analysing open-source information and news reports.

"Social media accounts have circulated multimedia showing persons, some of whom appear to wear RSF uniforms, detaining and abusing Abakar in El-Geneina. News reports and multimedia circulated during the evening of 14 June 2023 appear to show Abakar's body," it said.

In a video verified by Middle East Eye, Abakar is shown being manhandled by RSF fighters and the paramilitary's head in West Darfur, Abdulrahman Gomaa, who appears behind the governor before he disappears into a building in El-Geneina.

Abakar was reportedly killed hours after the video was taken, and graphic footage appearing to show him lying dead on the ground and being kicked in his bloodied face has emerged.

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On Wednesday, Abakar made televised remarks on the ongoing violence in West Darfur's state capital El-Geneina, where activists say around 1,100 people have been killed since Sudan's war broke out on 15 April.

During the interview, he blamed the RSF and its aligned forces for ongoing violence, describing it as a genocide. 

'Civilians being killed'

Abakar also said the Sudanese army remained in their base and did not intervene or stop the violence against civilians. 

"Civilians are being killed randomly and in large numbers," Abakar said. Soon after, he was reportedly captured. 

The Sudanese army condemned Abakar's death and said the RSF had killed him in its custody. 

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Abakar headed a faction within the Sudanese Liberation Movement, which fought the military and Arab militias (including what would become the RSF) during Darfur's two-decade, on-off conflict.

In 2021, he signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government, becoming governor of West Darfur in its wake.

His death is the latest escalation in Sudan's conflict, which broke out over plans to fold the RSF into the military.

Fighting has raged in the capital Khartoum as well as in Darfur, where the militia the RSF grew out of, the Janjaweed, was notorious for its bloody targeting of civilians, particularly non-Arabs. Some 300,000 people are believed to have died in the Darfur conflict, the majority between 2003 and 2005. 

Volker Perthes, the UN envoy to Sudan, said on Tuesday that "there is an emerging pattern of targeted attacks against civilians on an ethnic basis" in El-Geneina, "allegedly committed by Arab militias and some men in RSF uniform". 

Perthes, who was declared persona non grata by the Sudanese military over his perceived closeness to the head of the RSF, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti, said: "If verified, these attacks could amount to crimes against humanity."

Before his death, Abakar had also criticised the army for failing to stop RSF attacks in El-Geneina. 

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