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Sudanese troops killed in Yemen rebel attack, officials say

Sudan has fought with Saudi and Emirati troops in Yemen since 2015 [AFP]

Date of publication: 16 November, 2019

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The deaths of six members of Sudan's RSF in Yemen follow speculation that Khartoum will fully withdraw its troops from the war.
An attack by Yemeni rebels killed six members of a Sudanese paramilitary force that has been fighting in Yemen since 2015, Sudanese officials said on Saturday.

The officials said the attack, which occurred earlier this week, targeted a position on the Saudi-Yemen border held by Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Led by General Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, the RSF is an officialised offshoot of the notorious Janjaweed militias accused of war crimes in the Darfur conflict.

Dagalo, better known by his nicknamed Hemedti, has mobilised thousands of recruits to fight in Yemen on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition, over the past years.

The Sudanese forces, which allegedly include child soldiers, have been deployed mainly to Yemen's northern province to repel any attacks by the Houthi rebels directed at Saudi Arabia.

The Sudanese troops were on patrol in the frontier area on Wednesday when they were attacked by the Iran-linked Houthis, officials told AFP on condition of anonymity. At least three others were wounded in the deadly attack.

The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday an attack on the Saudi-Yemen border killed one of its soldiers. It is unclear if the Sudanese troops were killed in the same attack, which took place in Saudi Arabia's Najran region.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not return a request for comment by AFP.

Time to withdraw?

The attack comes amid increasing speculation that Sudan may soon pull its troops from the conflict.

Both Abu Dhabi and Khartoum have pulled out troops in recent months but neither have committed to quitting the war.

At home, however, the involvement of Sudanese troops in Yemen is deeply unpopular, with protesters having demanded the withdrawal of soldiers during mass demonstrations earlier this year.

It is estimated that hundreds or even thousands of Sudanese have been killed in fighting in Yemen. According to a report by The New York Times last year, children may even be among the dead.

Riyadh allegedly offered impoverished Sudanese families up to $10,000 to send their children to fight in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has officially denied the reports.

The report said that children made up at least 20 percent - and sometimes 40 percent - of the Sudanese battalion in Yemen.

Many had been brought in from the Darfur region of the west of Sudan, where some 300,000 people were killed and 1.2 million displaced during years of conflict.

But, despite calls from Sudanese protesters and opposition politicians to withdraw troops, analysts are unsure whether the move will be realised while Hemedti, a staunch ally of Riyadh, remains in power.

"It is unlikely that anything will happen regarding a possible withdrawal of Sudanese soldiers from the Yemen conflict considering the transitional government is civilian-led and the armed forces are included within the council that came as a result of the agreement between the Sudanese opposition and the military," Yemen expert Mohammed al-Jaberi told The New Arab in September.

"The final say lies with the council itself and not the government and considering the strong connection between Hemedti and Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it is unlikely for Sudanese forces to withdraw," he added. 

Hemedti, who previously served as the country's deputy leader in the transitional military council which ousted former leader Omar al-Bashir from power this year, is a member of Sudan's ruling sovereign council.

The war in Yemen has claimed more than 100,000 lives and thrust millions to the brink of famine in what has been described by the United Nations as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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