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As Military Coup Attempt In Sudan Unfolds, Here Are Some Facts About Rapid Support Forces

The RSF made a number of public statements in which it claimed that the army had attacked one of its locations in south Khartoum, taken control of the airport.

| Written By
Vidit Baya

RSF Commander: General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Image Credit: AP)

Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan, became the forefront of fierce clashes between Sudan’s military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), also known as the paramilitary force, raising fears of a wider conflict. On Saturday, Khartoum woke to the sound of heavy firing in numerous areas, including the city centre and the neighbourhood of Bahri. 

The RSF made a number of public statements in which it claimed that the army had attacked one of its locations in south Khartoum, taken control of the capital's airport, and "completely controlled" the Republican Palace, which houses the president's office. In a tit-for-tat move, the RSF claimed to have taken control of an airport and airbase in Marawi, a city in the north located around 350 kilometres northwest of Khartoum.

Office of the Official Spokesperson of the RSF in a statement said, "The Rapid Support Forces were surprised this morning, Saturday, April 15, [as] a large force of the armed forces [entered] the headquarters of the [RSF] in the Soba campgrounds in Khartoum, besieging the forces present there, and then attacking them with a sweeping attack with all kinds of heavy and light weapons."

What is the Rapid Support Forces?

The RSF, or paramilitary forces, is a group of trained combat individuals with operation control under the Sudanese government. Human Rights Watch had called operations of the RSF, especially in the War in Darfur, crimes against humanity as they killed and raped civilians under the shadow of the war. 

The forces were established on January 18, 2017, under the Rapid Support Forces Act endorsed by the Sudanese National Assembly in its session No. 43. They are commanded by the Commander in Chief with the objective of implementing "general principles of the Sudanese Armed Forces." The organisation is administered by the National Intelligence and Security Service but commanded by the Sudanese Armed Forces.

The commander of the RSF is General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo ("Hemetti"). Human Rights Watch estimated about 5,000–6,000 soldiers within the RSF in February 2014 in Darfur. The number shot up in 2016–2017, with over 40,000 members of the RSF participating in the Yemeni Civil War. 

The Human Rights Watch in a statement accused the RAF of human rights violations during the War in Darfur and stated that the militia "repeatedly attacked villages, burned and looted homes, beating, raping and executing villagers," as the Sudanese Armed Forces aided the militia group with air and ground support. 

RSF involvement in International Civil Wars

  • Libyan Civil War:In July 2019, about 1,000 RSF forces were present in Libya assisting the Libyan National Army during the 2019 Western Libya offensive. 
  • Yemeni Civil War: In this continuing Yemeni Civil War, the RSF with the Sudanese Armed Forces assisted the Sadui-led colation which intervened and led to a loss of lives and destruction of infrastructure and has been accused of war crimes by the Human Rights Watch.


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