Sudan’s Forgotten Massacres: Kill One Child, Spare Another

Reem Almadani/ Sudan

“They would enter homes and tell the women, if you have two children, we’ll kill one and leave the other, if you have five, we’ll kill three and leave two, and so on.” These were their commander’s orders, instructing them to kill every man over 18 and under 40.

This report is the result of a collaborative effort between Frontline in Focus and Daraj Media

Dr. Maher (a pseudonym) hurried to one of the village bridges, walking through a large number of corpses in search of his brother Abdullah’s (a pseudonym) body until he found it lying on the ground. “I found my brother’s body, and nearby, the bodies of two brothers who were friends of ours. About two or three meters away, I found the third brother’s body, drenched in blood,” Maher recounts.

Maher describes the harrowing moments he witnessed during the Wad Al-Noura massacre in the Gezira State of Sudan: “When I arrived, I was horrified by the sight. The number of dead people was immense. It was an agonizing moment to have to step over corpses to reach my brother’s body.”

Wad Al-Noura is one of the largest villages in the Gezira State, with a population of around 30,000. It had a large market, a major hospital, well-equipped schools, and service centers. The massacre that occurred there is neither the first nor the only one since the outbreak of the war between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In fact, many other massacres preceded and followed it. The primary suspect in these atrocities is the RSF, which, according to a statement by the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recently killed 40 civilians during attacks in the outskirts of Sennar city in the southeast of the country.

Details of the Wad Al-Noura Massacre

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) committed the Wad Al-Noura massacre on June 5.

One day before the massacre, the RSF entered and quickly left the village, only to return again. At exactly four in the morning, they entered with a convoy of military vehicles, led by a procession of motorcycles, and began firing randomly. This was followed by artillery shelling on homes, the hospital, and service centers. They also used anti-aircraft and heavy weapons, killing over 100 civilians, including 35 children, and injuring more than 100, with several still missing. Sources suggest the death toll is much higher, but the communication blackout has prevented the documentation of all the victims.

In a statement about the massacre, Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF said: “I was horrified by reports indicating that at least 35 children were killed and more than 20 others injured during the attack on Wednesday in Wad Al-Nawra.”

Execution of Medical Personnel and Clothes as Bandages

“I survived because the clothes I wore did not indicate that I was a doctor,” says Maher. He adds, “Medical personnel were targeted because they were treating the army’s wounded, according to the RSF.”

He continues, “Another doctor survived at the Awlad Hijaz Medical Center because the locals helped him change his clothes. Later, we found nurses with broken arms and legs.”

Maher’s voice fades as he recalls the pain and sadness of that day. He continues to describe the events: “The attack started at dawn, this time with greater numbers and heavier weapons, under the pretext that there were army forces present, even though there was no military garrison in the village.”

The goal was to destroy and terrorize Wad Al-Noura specifically, as the attacking forces kept repeating the phrase “All the power inside Noura,” a military expression revealing their determination to invade the village. Maher says, “They kept shooting, raiding homes to steal, entering and exiting in groups, terrorizing and then killing the residents. They specifically targeted Wad Al-Noura, even if their spokesperson denied it.”

Wad Al-Noura had four medical centers, one specializing in gynecology and obstetrics, and the others as general medical centers, in addition to a large hospital with operating rooms and various medical departments. The RSF looted everything, including money, medical equipment, and medicines. When things calmed down, the number of injured was so high that Maher could not provide adequate care: “After the theft of drugs and first aid supplies, I had to use clothes to bandage wounds. There was no gauze, no anesthetics, and no sutures.”

Systematic executions of medical staff took place. Describing the executions he witnessed, Maher says: “They stormed the hospital and found the operating room nurse, Mohamed Juma Bilal, who was helping women undergoing cesarean sections to evacuate the village. They killed him along with a patient’s companion. They also killed a pharmacist at Dr. Tawfiq’s clinic named Amin and his assistant, Tariq, and looted their money. Similarly, at Awlad Hijaz Medical Center, they found a medical staff member named Haidar dead. Dr. Mahmoud, a well-known dentist for his good character and patient care in Wad Al-Noura and neighboring villages, was also killed in cold blood.”

The RSF attack’s damage extended beyond medical personnel and hospitals, cutting off roads between Wad Al-Noura and the surrounding towns and villages. Maher says this was a major cause of the high death toll: “Ultimately, we are a village hospital. We used to ‘first aid’ the patient and then transfer them to a larger hospital in the city, like Al Managil Hospital. But after this attack, roads were cut off, and we lost medicines. Unfortunately, many died before reaching hospitals outside Wad Al-Noura.”

Maher returned home after the attack to find that it had also been targeted. His siblings and mother had been beaten, and all their gold, furniture, and cars had been stolen. He couldn’t find his brother Abdullah and kept searching until someone informed him that his body was lying near one of the village bridges. “I rushed there, and when I arrived, I was horrified by the sight. The number of dead was immense. It was a harrowing moment to have to step over corpses to reach my brother. He was the kindest of us and was preparing for his wedding on Eid day… His death killed us all.”

The day after the massacre, videos on social media showed dozens of citizens being buried in a public square, reportedly a football field in the village. The villagers condemned the Sudanese Armed Forces for not sending reinforcements to defend the village during the second attack, despite requests for help.

The RSF’s version of events came quickly, with a statement claiming, “There were mobilized forces and weapons in this village.” Their leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, confirmed this in his Eid al-Adha speech, saying his forces “faced the army, mobilized forces, Islamist battalions, and the security apparatus.”

Open Graves in Front of Homes

“When the cut-off internet networks return, the world will witness heinous crimes. Homes and the spaces in front of them have turned into open graves,” says Mohammed, describing what he witnessed in the towns and villages of the Gezira State.

The Gezira State has been in its fifth month of a communications blackout, exacerbating the suffering of its residents and making it difficult for them to stay in touch and know each other’s news.

In December 2023, the Gezira State fell into the hands of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and the repercussions of its fall are still ongoing. It was one of the first states to support the army with money and convoys, and hosted the largest percentage of displaced people in Sudan, turning it into a large displacement camp. The fall of the state to the RSF puzzled the people, prompting the army leadership to issue a statement announcing an investigation into the incident.

“If You Have Two Children, We’ll Kill One and Leave the Other”

“There is no military base or presence of the army here,” begins Khaled, recounting the events and what he witnessed in the village of Wad Al-Noura. “There was no justification for the village’s invasion. When the forces entered, they started entering homes and slaughtering most of the residents with knives.”

Khaled, a resident of the Gezira area, witnessed many events that he says will never be erased from his memory. “They would enter homes and tell the women, if you have two children, we’ll kill one and leave the other, if you have five, we’ll kill three and leave two, and so on.” These were their commander’s orders, instructing them to kill every man over 18 and under 40.

Khaled explains the high number of deaths: “They would order the men to lie face down in groups, then shoot them from behind. In an hour, the number of dead men increased to around 100.” The RSF roamed the streets, demanding car keys from civilians, giving the owner five minutes, or they would be shot. “Despite this, many who handed over their belongings were still killed.”

During the continuous RSF attack, Khaled says the village contacted the army, but there was no response. “We had to prepare with knives and some personal hand weapons, which, once depleted, left us facing this brutality.”

You Can Survive If No Men Are in the House

“We survived because there were no men in the house,” says Najwa, explaining how she and her family survived. She recounts that they heard the shelling from early morning, with shrapnel reaching their home. They survived because there were no men in the house, but the neighboring homes to their right and left saw their residents killed.

When the sounds of guns and artillery subsided, the women gathered, with no men among them, and began lifting the bodies off the ground. Najwa decided to leave the village because her mother was ill, and there were no doctors or functioning hospitals after the RSF bombed the hospital and killed Dr. Mohamed Jumaa, who had been helping women with cesarean sections. “Unfortunately, my mother couldn’t endure the journey and died on the way.”

Most residents of Wad Al-Noura fled to nearby areas following the massacre. The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a condemnation statement, calling the massacre “worse than the crimes of internationally known terrorist groups.” The African Union also condemned the massacre in a statement from its chairman, Moussa Faki, demanding an end to the crisis. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, expressed his shock at the reports of the Wad Al-Noura massacre, stressing the need to hold those responsible for the unlawful killings accountable and calling for an end to the conflict.

All names in this report have been changed to protect the safety and security of the individuals involved.

 

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