AFRICANGLOBE – The SPLA-North has pushed the Sudan Armed Forces out of a strategic town deep in the Nuba Mountains, ensuring the short-term safety of rebel political capital, Kauda.
Already the most violent and active fighting season on record, battles continue for key towns across the Nuba Mountains.
On January 16th, SPLA-North forces launched a full frontal assault on the town of Angartu, just 20 kilometers east of Kauda. “We waited until we got close to them and that is when we attacked and pushed them out and gathered the guns and ammo they left behind,” said SPLA-North Sergeant Hisam Khamis. After around four hours of intense fighting with infantry and mobile units – mainly machine-gun mounted technical trucks – sources in the rebel army say the government forces retreated to positions in and around Talodi.
The counterattack on Angartu comes just one week after SPLA-N forces were pushed out of the town by a joint force including elements of the Sudanese Military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Force. The Rapid Support Force unit was made up of newly trained recruits from the Nuba Mountains – known as RSF-2 – rather than the Janjaweed forces from Darfur that comprise the original RSF-1. The initial defeat in Angartu allowed the government to move within 20 kilometers of Kauda – the closest any government forces have come to the town since the conflict began in 2011. The Angartu’s capture put Kauda within range of government artillery, and around 5000 people were displaced from Angartu, Mendi and Kara Jumous within hours.
The attack on Angartu came on the heels of another victory on the other side of the Nuba Mountains, just 20 kilometers from Kadugli – the government controlled capital of South Kordofan.
On January 11, the SPLA-North repulsed an attack on Um Serdiba, launched by another joint force of military and RSF-1 units from the town of Ginasiya. The government forces split in their retreat, with around half moving to Ginasiya and half regrouping in nearby Daldoka.
Three days later, on January 14, the SPLA-North launched an attack on the weakened force in Ginasiya. Using machine-gun mounted technicals and a tank, they pushed the force out of Ginasiya in just under an hour. Some 1500 soldiers were forced to retreat to Daldoka. Journalists on the scene reported seeing more than 100 dead government soldiers. There were at least 15 SPLA-N casualties in the attack.
The attacks on Angartu and Ginasiya have reversed significant government gains made in the beginning of January. Since it’s promise to crush the rebellion in the Nuba Mountains in 2014, Sudanese military and paramilitary forces have launched several large-scale assaults from Talodi and Kadugli.
While both sides have made gains and experienced defeats, the battle lines have moved little since the start of the government-declared “Decisive Summer” campaign.
But the campaign is massively affecting civilians as it tears across the state. At least 10,000 have been displaced in this fighting season alone – pushed out by the massive aerial bombardment that precedes and follows each major battle.
For now the SPLA-N stronghold is safe and the rebels are within 20 kilometers of the government capital – a reversal of fortunes from last week. While any decisive victories seem unlikely, more battles and reversals of fortune are almost certain to come.