Sudanese Forces have captured a strategic town from rebel forces in South Kordofan, putting their artillery within range of the SPLA-North stronghold, Kauda. Civilians have completely evacuated the areas around Mendi, Angartu and Kara Jumous as the two forces dig in for more battles.
The prelude to the fighting began on January 6th, when a large joint force of the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces moved from the city of Talodi into the nearby town of Kega and began shelling SPLA-North positions in Angartu. According to civilians, hundreds of artillery shells hit the area in addition to attacks from MiG fighter jets and Antonov bombers. Some residents reported seeing drones circle overhead.
After several days of sustained bombardment, on the morning of January 9, the combined force launched a frontal assault on SPLA-North positions at Angartu.
According to eyewitness and SPLA-North sources, a detachment of the RSF was sent north, through Kara Jumous, to flank the main rebel force. However an SPLA-North force was preparing its own maneuver in the area and ambushed the RSF troops before they could attack. SPLA-N officals said they captured several guns and vehicles as they drove the RSF flanking force back to Kega.
The victory was short lived, as the flanking force regrouped with the main government attack and combined to drive the rebel forces out of Angartu and into the neighboring town of Mendi. At least 41 SPLA-North soldiers were wounded in the day-long battle.
Now in control of Angartu, Sudanese forces are just 20 kilometers east of Kauda. This is the closest government forces have come to the town, which serves as the de facto capital of rebel-controlled South Kordofan. The capture of Kauda is frequently used by Sudanese president Omar Bashir as symbol of victory in the conflict with the SPLA-N. The government victory has moved SPLM-North civil administration as well as thousands of civilians within range of Sudanese government guns.
The Rapid Support Forces are a paramilitary unit comprised of Janjaweed militia previously employed by the government to battle rebels in Darfur. The force was retrained and redeployed to aid the government in its fight against the SPLA-North in South Kordofan. This is the first battle in which the RSF have engaged during South Kordofan’s current fighting season.
Sources around the state say the RSF forces in the state have been split into at least two units, with one force stationed in the state capital Kadugli, and the other out of Abu Jubeiha in the east.
As the attack on Angartu unfolded in the east of the Nuba Mountains, another attack was launched from the state capital Kadugli, to the west. Another mixed force of RSF militia and government troops attacked the towns of Daloka and Um Serdiba. While the SPLA-N claims to have repelled the attack, this is the second major clash in the area in the New Year.
Civilians have taken shelter inside rebel held territory but it is unclear how long it will remain a safe-haven. Civilian bombardment continues at an unprecedented pace, and with government forces massed on both sides of the Nuba Mountains, residents are preparing for the fierce battles to come.