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The sources said the surface-to-air missiles have significantly buttressed RSF paramilitary fighters and their leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo as he battles for power with Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military ruler and the head of its armed forces.
In bordering Libya, where a Wagner-backed rogue general, Khalifa Haftar, controls swathes of land, satellite imagery supports these claims, showing an unusual uptick in activity on Wagner bases.
The powerful Russian mercenary group has played a public and pivotal role in Moscow’s foreign military campaigns, namely in Ukraine, and has repeatedly been accused of committing atrocities. In Africa, it has helped to prop up Moscow’s growing influence and seizing of resources.
Dagalo and Burhan had been jockeying for power in negotiations over restoring civilian leadership in Sudan before talks broke down, erupting into some of the worst violence the country has seen in decades.
The fighting has claimed hundreds of lives and deprived millions of people from electricity, water and food.
Satellite images show increased activity
Satellite images analyzed by CNN and open-source group “All Eyes on Wagner” show one Russian transport plane shuttling between two key Libyan airbases belonging to Haftar and used by the sanctioned Russian fighting group.
Haftar has backed the RSF, sources say, although he denies taking sides. And increased Wagner activity at Haftar’s bases, combined with claims by Sudanese and regional diplomatic sources, suggests that both Russia and the Libyan general may have been preparing to support the RSF even before the eruption of violence.
The uptick in movement by the Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft started two days before the conflict in Sudan began on Saturday, and continued until at least Wednesday, according to satellite images and Netherlands-based open-source specialist Gerjon.
That plane, one of a class of aircraft known by the NATO designation Candid, flew from Haftar’s Khadim airbase in Libya to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia – where Russia has a major airbase – on Thursday, April 13. The next day, it flew from Latakia back to Khadim. The day after that, it flew again to another Haftar airbase in Libya’s Jufra. It parked in a secluded area, something flight tracker Gerjon considered highly unusual. This was the day the conflict erupted.
The transport plane returned to Latakia on Tuesday before flying back to the Libyan militia airbase of Khadim and then to Jufra, according to Gerjon’s research. That day, Russia airdropped surface-to-air missiles to Dagalo’s militia positions in northwest Sudan, according to regional and Sudanese sources