Sudan at risk of becoming a terrorist haven, expert says

FILE PHOTO: Chadian cart owners transport belongings of Sudanese people who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, while crossing the border between Sudan and Chad in Adre, Chad August 4, 2023. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo
Source: X90036

Attempts at ceasefires and peaceful resolutions have repeatedly failed since the outbreak of the war in Khartoum, Sudan.

The year-long war in Sudan has caused a devastating humanitarian crisis and political and ethnic tensions. British political analyst, Chris Blackburn has raised concerns that the Northeast African state might become a haven for terrorists.

Blackburn, an expert with the European-Bangladesh Economic Forum explained that the conflict requires an “urgent need for diplomatic intervention to mitigate the far-reaching repercussions of Sudan's protracted conflict.”

“The 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community paints a grim picture of Sudan's trajectory, warning that prolonged conflict could facilitate the resurgence of terrorist and criminal elements within the nation's borders,” he told GSW in an interview.

What is the Sudan war about?

On April 15 2023, conflict erupted in Sudan, causing widespread devastation, ethnic violence in Darfur, hunger, and displacement. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been engaged in a power struggle, resulting in nearly 16,000 deaths and millions displaced.

Handout photograph of a woman and baby at the Zamzam displacement camp in North Darfur
A handout photograph, shot in January 2024, shows women and babies at the Zamzam displacement camp, close to El Fasher in North Darfur, Sudan. MSF/Mohamed Zakaria/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

The two warring parties, the army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of SAF and commander Mohamed Hamdan of RSF blew apart the fragile civilian-led democracy in a coup in 2021 after President Omar al-Bashir was toppled in an uprising in 2019.

Efforts to integrate the RSF into the army worsened tensions. The rising tensions turned to conflict on April 15 2023 when both forces sent armoured vehicles into the streets and opened fire on each other.

According to Blackburn, “the convergence of Sudan's strategic location at the crossroads of the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, and North Africa with the intensifying conflict creates a fertile environment for the proliferation of terrorist activities and criminal enterprises.”

“Of particular concern is the potential expansion of regional affiliates of ISIS and al-Qa’ida in Africa, exploiting Sudan's instability to further their agendas,” Blackburn told GSW.

Recent reports suggest that Sudan is receiving military assistance from foreign entities like Iran, Libya, Russia, and the UAE and Blackburn says “The involvement of these external actors threatens to prolong the conflict and perpetuate the suffering of Sudanese civilians caught in the crossfire.”

Adding to these difficulties, Blackburn explained that Sudan’s history characterised by the presence of terrorist groups and Islamist government such as Osama bin Laden's stay in Sudan during the 1990s, alongside the Islamist military rule, highlights the persistent influence of extremist factors in Sudanese politics.

“The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, have been used in the Yemen and Libyan Civil Wars. Iran supplying armed drones against the RSF, who are believed to have support from the UAE, could be seen as another escalation in proxy warfare,” Blackburn added.

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