Ukrainian special services launch strikes on Wagner-backed militia in Sudan

Fire erupts in a market in Sudan following bombardment from the Rapid Support Forces
Fire erupts in a market in Sudan following bombardment from the Rapid Support Forces - AFP

Ukrainian special services were “likely” behind a series of strikes against a Wagner-backed militia in Sudan, according to a new report.

A Ukrainian military source told CNN that a “non-Sudanese military” had carried out a series of drone strikes and a ground assault on the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) near the north African country’s capital.

“Ukrainian special services were likely responsible,” the source added.

Strikes outside of Ukraine and Russia would be a dramatic expansion of Kyiv’s campaign against Moscow and its international allies.

Major General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, is known to favour strikes that demonstrate Kyiv’s growing international reach, and show Russian targets are not safe anywhere.

Western officials say Ukraine has a network of relations in Africa through a history of doing business on the continent to make such strikes possible.

The paramilitary RSF group, which is believed to be backed by Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, is fighting against the Sudanese army for control of the country.

Drone footage appeared to show the hallmarks of a Ukrainian-style attack on members of the RSF on a street near the capital Khartoum.

Members of the RSF
The RSF is fighting against the Sudanese army for control of the country - AFP

Two commercially available drones commonly used by Ukrainian forces against Russia were involved in at least eight of the strikes, it was reported.

Ukrainian text was seen on the drone controller, while experts told CNN that the pattern of the drone swooping into its target was common in Ukraine and not Africa.

It is believed to be the first use of first-person view drones, which have grown in popularity in Ukraine, on the African continent.

Videos of the purported attacks show several views, from the viewpoint of the pilot, a drone observing the strike zone and the controller itself.

The strikes were carried out in and around Omdurman, a city across the River Nile from the Sudanese capital.

The exact dates of the assaults could not be confirmed, but social media reports suggested they took place on Sept 8.

Two days prior, Wagner was reported to have facilitated a large arms convoy to Sudan via an RSF base in al-Zurug, near the country’s border with Chad.

Satellite images appeared to show over 100 vehicles, including scores of trucks, at the garrison.

Wagner is known to have a presence in the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali and Sudan, but could also be expanding its African operation.

The group was pivotal in enforcing Russia’s foreign campaigns by propping up Moscow’s allies, all while growing its influence and control over natural resources.

Separate footage appeared to show at least three foreign fighters conducting a raid on a building.

In a clip, recorded via a body camera, troops were seen wearing night vision goggles. A second video, shot from above, showed them advancing on a building in Omdurman.

Earlier this year, leaked US intelligence documents suggested Ukraine’s military intelligence had planned covert strikes on Russian targets inside Syria with the help of the local Kurdish military.

Under the plan, Ukrainian operatives would have trained members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a former US-backed group, to strike Russian troops and Wagner mercenaries with drones.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, was said to have put a halt to the operation after US and Turkish officials raised concerns over Ukraine’s cooperation with Kurdish forces.

A high-level military source in Sudan told CNN he had “no knowledge of a Ukrainian operation in Sudan” and did not believe the reports were true.

The attacks in Sudan appeared to replicate his agency’s plans for strikes on Russian targets in Syria.