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KHARTOUM: Sudan has long sent mercenaries abroad, but now the country itself has become a battleground for foreign fighters and shadowy military backers lured by money and gold, experts say. Armed “fortune seekers” are flooding into the fight from across Africa’s Sahel region including Mali, Chad and Niger, UN special representative Volker Perthes has said, warning that “their number is not insignificant”.

Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has accused the rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of recruiting fighters from troubled nearby countries, including “mercenaries from Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger”.

Sudan’s army has claimed to have killed “a foreign sniper” in the ranks of the RSF, and witnesses in Khartoum say they have heard some RSF paramilitaries speak French, the language of neighbouring Chad.

For the past month, Sudan has been rocked by deadly battles between de facto leader Burhan and his former deputy, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, also known as Hemeti.

The RSF under Daglo, a former camel trader, emerged out of the notorious Janjaweed militias which from 2003 pillaged villages in the Darfur region where they were accused of widespread atrocities and war crimes.

In recent years the RSF has sent guns for hire into the Yemen war, on the side of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Iran-backed Huthi rebels, and to Libya, in support of different camps including eastern-based general Khalifa Haftar.

Washington and Brussels charge the RSF has ties with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, which is fighting in Ukraine and has long been active in multiple African countries, including Libya where it backed Haftar.

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