Ukraine's intelligence services may be behind a series of drone strikes and a ground operation against Wagner-backed rebels near Sudan's capital.
Source: CNN, citing a Ukrainian military source, a senior Sudanese military source, US officials, another senior Sudanese source, and military informants from Chad
Details: Asked whether Ukraine was behind the attacks, a Ukrainian military source characterised it as the work of a "non-Sudanese military". According to him, "Ukrainian special services were likely responsible".
CNN reports that the operation consisted of a series of attacks on the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which is supposedly financed by the Wagner Group in its fight for control in Sudan against the country’s army.
The publication emphasises that it has not been able to independently confirm Ukraine's involvement in this series of attacks. However, the video footage obtained by CNN shows signs of "Ukrainian-style" drone attacks.
Quote from CNN: "Two commercially available drones widely used by Ukrainians were involved in at least eight of the strikes, with Ukrainian text seen on the drone controller. Experts also said the tactics used – namely the pattern of drones swooping directly into their target – were highly unusual in Sudan and the wider African region.
Covert strikes by Ukraine in Sudan would mark a dramatic and provocative expansion of Kyiv’s theater of war against Moscow.
...Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were captured in the drone footage. Portions of those videos have been circulating on social media since Thursday. Footage of the ground operation has not previously been published."
More details: A senior Sudanese military source said he had "no knowledge of a Ukrainian operation in Sudan" and did not believe it was true.
Several US officials seemed surprised both to learn of the incident and at the suggestion that Ukrainian forces could be behind the strikes and ground operation.
The video footage, which can be viewed on CNN's website at the link above, shows a series of drone strikes in and around Omdurman, a town near the capital Khartoum that has become the centre of fighting between the two groups.
The video of the drone strikes shows a DJI MAVIC 3 drone. Text in English and Ukrainian can be seen on the drones. The drone's operator, who appears to be a foreigner, can be seen in the controller's view, but he was wearing a balaclava and thus could not be identified.
A British researcher who runs the weapons identification website Calibre Obscura analysed the footage for CNN and said the device was similar to those used by Ukrainian forces to control DJI MAVIC drones.
CNN has identified the locations of the attacks and ground operations shown in the drone footage, but has not been able to independently verify the date of the footage. Several strikes on the Shambat Bridge, which connects Omdurman and Khartoum, appear to tally with social media reports of an attack on 8 September.
Óêðà¿íñüê³ ñïåöñëóæáè, ìîæëèâî, ñòîÿòü çà àòàêàìè íà Âàãíåð ó Ñóäàí³. Â³äåî: ÑNN pic.twitter.com/TcaQDKDg9D— Óêðà¿íñüêà ïðàâäà ✌️ (@ukrpravda_news) September 20, 2023
Another senior Sudanese source reports the strikes were carried out just two days after Wagner assisted in transferring a large convoy of weapons to Sudan through the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) garrison in Al-Zurug, in the southwest of the country, near the border with Chad.
A source told CNN that many vehicles arrived in Zurug on 6 September, including several trucks with weapons from Wagner. The publication obtained satellite images showing more than 100 vehicles, including dozens of trucks, on the territory of the garrison on the same day senior Sudanese sources reported a convoy with weapons.
Two military informants from Chad told CNN that the convoy was heading through Chad to Zurug.
Six drone strikes were aimed at pickups driving across the Shambhat bridge. Eight other attacks targeted parked cars, buildings and armed men in Omdurman and the western suburbs of Omdurman, where the Sudanese military has carried out a series of air raids on Sudanese rebel positions in recent weeks that have reportedly taken dozens of civilian lives.
One video shows at least three foreign militants raiding the building. The military was wearing night glasses, and one of the soldiers was probably carrying a grenade launcher in the video, which was probably taken on a chest camera. CNN links an aerial image showing the military advancing on the building to an area in Omdurman near the site where the drone strikes were carried out.
CNN previously reported that, according to sources, Wagner supplies the RSF with surface-to-air missiles that support paramilitary RSF fighters and their leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagal, in a power struggle with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Armed Forces.
Wim Zwinenburg, head of the humanitarian disarmament project at the Dutch peacekeeping organisation PAX, said that "such (FPV) loitering drones are being seen in the African continent for the first time ever".
CNN notes that Ukrainian and Russian troops have been experimenting with FPV drones since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, equipping them with rocket-propelled anti-tank grenade launchers. Highly manoeuvrable, accurate ammunition can carry a large load and destroy a car. Although drones have previously been used to drop bombs in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Libya, armed commercial drones that explode in a collision are new to Africa.
A senior Sudanese source told the publication that about 90% of the RSF's weapons came from Wagner, adding that supplies did not stop despite the deaths of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary group, and his deputy Dmitry Utkin in a plane crash.
The same source noted that the Kremlin was repeatedly asked about Wagner's support, but they replied that they had no information: "For us, the Kremlin and Wagner have become the same."