Sudan civil war: 200 settlements hit by fires since start of conflict as scorched earth tactics intensify

More than 200 settlements in Sudan have been hit by over 300 fires since the start of the country's civil war in April last year, according to new data.

This follows analysis shared exclusively with Sky News in March that revealed 180 separate blazes had taken place, affecting 108 villages, towns and cities, since fighting broke out between the rival Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The new data, verified by the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), reveals that last month was the worst on record for the number of fires being used as a weapon of war.

The scorched earth policy against settlements has made the situation worse for people in the African country, where millions have been displaced by the crisis.

In April, 72 settlements were burnt - more than the previous three months combined, the CIR found.

April saw the highest number of blazes since war broke out, with a 170% increase on the March figure.

At least 201 settlements have now been affected by blazes during the conflict.

In April, 31 settlements had more than half their area wiped out.

Cameron Hudson, Senior Associate for the Africa Program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said:

"Many of the motivations and tactics being used by the RSF today are the same that were employed by the Janjaweed two decades ago. Except, today, with no government to reign in the RSF's abuses there is every reason to believe that the destruction of communities in Darfur could be far worse than what we saw before.

"That is a truly frightening prospect and should motivate the international community to take more concerted action to prevent further atrocities."

The Darfur region remains the worst affected by the violence, with a surge particularly to the north and west of al Fashir, a North Darfur city where the RSF mounted an offensive in April.

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"Amidst escalating violence around al Fashir, we've seen a progression of fires in settlements around the city, as RSF and allied militias appear to encircle the city," said Anouk Theunissen, Sudan witness project director at CIR.

"Such destruction has forced many to abandon their homes and livelihoods, leaving those who remain living in fear."

In total, 32 settlements have been burned within 50km (31 miles) of the city.

On 10 May, there were renewed clashes between forces loyal to the SAF and the RSF in al Fashir.

Around 850 people were displaced across al Fashir due to the clashes, according to the International Organisation for Migration Displacement Tracking Matrix (IOMDTM).

Unconfirmed reports received by the UN indicated at least 27 people were killed in the fighting, while 130 people have been injured.

The conflict has forced 8.8 million people in Sudan to leave their homes, including two million who have now left the country.

"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," said Ms Theunissen.

More than 14,000 people have been killed and thousands more injured in the conflict, with its population on the brink of famine.

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.