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More than 200 villages and towns damaged or destroyed by fire since the start of the war in Sudan, with April the worst month on record

Updated: May 13

Screenshot of the Sudan Witness Fire Map

Fire continues to devastate villages and settlements in western Sudan, with April the worst month on record in terms of the number of fires recorded and settlements affected since the conflict broke out last year, according to investigators from the Centre for Information Resilience’s (CIR) Sudan Witness project. 

The team found that 72 Sudanese villages and settlements were damaged or destroyed by fire during April – more than the previous three months combined. It brings the total number of settlements affected to 201 since the start of the war last year. 

Investigators estimate that 31 of the settlements affected by fire in April saw destruction to more than 50% of the settlement. Project director Anouk Theunissen describes the trend observed by investigators as a “dramatic and disturbing” increase.

“We’ve documented the patterns of numerous fires and the continuing devastation to settlements around western Sudan, large and small, since the conflict broke out last April,” Theunissen said.

“When we see reports of fighting or airstrikes coinciding with clusters of fires it indicates that fire is being used indiscriminately as a weapon of war. The trend is worsening and continues to lead to the mass displacement of Sudanese people.”

Screenshot from a video shared online by Darfur Victims Support. Sudan Witness geolocated the footage to an IDP site northeast of Muqrin, North Darfur,  13 April 2024 [13.65762307,25.12573379]. Source: X

Mounting RSF offensive in El Fasher 

During April, investigators verified a surge in the number of fires around – and particularly to the north and west of – El Fasher, North Darfur, at a time when the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were mounting an offensive on the city. In total, 32 settlements – some small villages and some towns – have been burned within 50 km of the city.

Settlements damaged by fire in the vicinity of El Fasher during April 2024. Many of these settlements were damaged by fire on more than one occasion.

“Amidst escalating violence around El Fasher, we’ve seen a progression of fires in settlements around the city as RSF and allied militias appear to encircle the city. Such destruction has forced many to abandon their homes and livelihoods, leaving those who remain living in fear,” Theunissen added. 

Data released by the International Organization for Migration in January estimated that 10.7 million people are now displaced by conflicts in Sudan, nine million inside the country.

The Darfur region is reported to have the highest proportion of displaced people. UN agencies recently warned of an imminent starvation risk in the region, with aid convoys halted amid escalating violence around El Fasher. 

Analysis carried out by Sudan Witness reveals that in some instances, camps for displaced people have been burnt leading to people being forced to flee twice. Last month, investigators geolocated footage of fire damage to an internally displaced person’s (IDP) camp in Muqrin,  a small village 22 km west of El Fasher.

Geolocation of footage showing burn damage to Muqrin, North Darfur on 13 April 2024 [13.65758701,25.12547307] Sources: Google Earth and X.

Open source “critical” 

Sudan Witness has been mapping fires in Sudan since the conflict began. Investigators use satellite imagery, publicly available fire monitoring data from NASA, and social media content to investigate and assess patterns of fires, principally in Darfur and Kordofan. 

Investigators documented at least 311 individual fire events in Darfur and Kordofan between April 2023 and the end of April 2024. The analysis reveals the impact fire is having on tens – if not hundreds – of thousands as people flee villages and areas in which fighting is taking place.

Analysis reveals that 51 settlements of different sizes have been burnt more than once since the outbreak of war.  Sudan Witness has also observed a pattern in which clusters of villages in close proximity to each other have been set ablaze in the same period.

According to Theunissen, open source techniques allow investigators to shed light on a conflict that has limited coverage from the ground. 

“International journalists find it near impossible to report from Darfur, and so open source plays a critical role in showing the world what’s happening there – and in ensuring there’s an archive of verified data to support justice and accountability efforts in the future,” Theunissen said. 

In October last year, Sudan Witness published a map documenting fires in Sudan. The map assigns different levels of confidence to fire incidents that have occurred based on the sources of data available. The conclusion about the total numbers of fires and villages damaged is based on those fires given a medium to very high level of confidence. 

Following the release of the map, the UK Minister for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, warned that the reported targeting and mass displacement of the Masalit community in Darfur bore “the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing".

In collaboration with C4ADS and the Sudan Human Rights Hub, Sudan Witness also contributes towards the Sudan Shahid map, which was set up following the outbreak of violence in April 2023 to collect, monitor and analyse a wide range of data relating to human rights abuses. 

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2 comentários

Cline Dwayne
Cline Dwayne
20 hours ago

Sudan Witness's collaborative efforts with organizations like C4ADS and the Sudan Human Rights Hub demonstrate a commitment to not only documenting and monitoring human rights abuses but also to actively contributing towards initiatives like the Sudan Shahid map, which serves as a vital tool in promoting accountability and justice for affected communities. Site: hill climb racing


a day ago

The use of fire as a weapon of war is a horrific tactic. The international community needs to do more to pressure all sides of the conflict to stop using these fnf go indiscriminate attacks.

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