Bombs hit homes, markets and bus stations across Sudan, often killing dozens of civilians at a time. Ethnic riots, accompanied by rape and looting, killed thousands of people in the western region of Darfur.

And a video clip, verified by United Nations officials, showing Sudanese soldiers parading through the streets of a major city, triumphantly brandishing the decapitated heads of students who were murdered because of their ethnicity.

The horrors of Sudan’s escalating civil war are laid out in graphic detail in a new United Nations report that draws on photographs, videos and interviews with more than 300 victims and witnesses, to present the stark human cost of 10 months of fighting. .

Many probable war crimes have occurred as part of the bitter battle for control of Sudan, one of the largest countries in Africa, which began with clashes between the country’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in April 2023, according to a UN report. body found.

The fighting began as a power struggle between military leaders, who dominated Sudan for decades, and the RSF, which mainly hails from Darfur. But it quickly became a national conflict with catastrophic consequences for Sudan’s 46 million people.

Both sides have committed indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Women and children have been raped or gang raped. Recruitment of child soldiers is common.

Foreign powers, including the United Arab Emirates and Iran, have intervened to back one side or the other, sending sophisticated weapons, including armed drones, to the battlefield, accelerating the pace of fighting and raising already elevated risks. for civilians. Diplomatic efforts led by the United States and Saudi Arabia to negotiate even a modest ceasefire have failed.

And the brutality has become more overt. The students who were beheaded in the central Sudanese city of El-Obeid were apparently massacred under the assumption that they supported the Rapid Support Forces, a spokesman for the UN human rights office told reporters. based in Nairobi, Seif Manango.

Sudan’s military said it was investigating the video, denouncing its content as “shocking” and vowing to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Despite mounting evidence of atrocities – and warnings from aid groups that parts of Sudan are heading towards famine – international attention to the conflict has been limited at a time when much of the focus is on the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

A United Nations appeal for $2.7 billion in humanitarian funding for Sudan has yielded less than 4 percent of those funds ($97 million), forcing the U.N. to dip into its emergency reserve to meet needs. urgent need for food and shelter.

Sudan’s war has forced eight million people from their homes, creating one of the world’s largest displacement crises. Nearly 1.5 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries, especially South Sudan, Chad and Egypt. About 80 percent of hospitals in conflict-affected areas have closed, the World Health Organization said.

However, even as the weak starve, attacks on aid convoys have obstructed aid deliveries and impunity reigns. Despite accounts of “death, suffering and despair” since the war in Sudan began, “there is no end in sight” to abuses against civilians, UN human rights chief Volker said in a statement. Turk.

The UN report found that both sides have detained civilians, including women and children, many of whom were later tortured. But he said the vast majority of sexual assaults appeared to have been carried out by the Rapid Support Forces and affiliated militias, citing one incident in which a victim was detained and gang-raped for 35 days by RSF forces.

The report said other victims were killed trying to stop fighters from attacking their relatives, and that members of African ethnic groups were especially targeted by ethnic Arab fighters linked to RSF.

At least 14,600 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that collects conflict data, although the actual number of victims is almost certainly much higher due to the difficulty of collecting data in a war zone. . In a report submitted to the UN Security Council last month, obtained by The Times, UN investigators estimated that some 15,000 people were killed during a single assault by RSF and allied forces on the Darfuri town of Geneina in November. .

In response to the RSF advance, the Sudanese army has dropped crude barrel bombs on homes and camps in the Darfur and Kordofan regions, often killing dozens of civilians at a time.

The evidence of widespread atrocities comes as the course of the war has taken several dramatic turns in recent months, amid growing evidence of foreign interference.

The Emirates have been covertly supplying the Rapid Support Forces with armed drones, surface-to-air missiles and other sophisticated weapons since last summer, according to United Nations investigators and diplomats, helping the Sudanese group capture a number of major cities in Darfur. , as well as the key town of Wad Madani, south of Khartoum, in December.

The shock of the fall of Wad Madani led the Sudanese army to return to the offensive, launching a major campaign to recapture parts of Omdurman, a city across the Nile from Khartoum, from the RSF.

In that battle, the army regained some territory, its first major victories since the war began, although it had to turn to Iran for armed drones to fuel its campaign, a potential source of tension with the army’s other backer, Egypt. whose military support appears to have diminished in recent months.

The army’s effort in Omdurman was also boosted by the arrival of Darfuri rebel groups that once fought against the Sudanese army but are now allied with the force in the fight against the RSF, their mutual enemy.

The space for peace talks appears to be shrinking. Efforts led by the United States and Saudi Arabia to negotiate even a modest ceasefire through talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah proved futile.

The US ambassador to Sudan, John Godfrey, who helped lead those talks, said Friday he would resign. No replacement has been announced amid reports that the State Department will soon name a special envoy to Sudan.

On Friday, a State Department spokesperson condemned the Sudanese military’s decision to ban the passage of humanitarian aid from Chad into RSF-controlled territory, as well as the RSF’s looting of aid deliveries and harassment of humanitarian workers.

RSF leader Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan appeared to be taking a victory lap in late December and early January, when he toured six African countries aboard an Emirati plane, shaking hands with powerful leaders, including the president from South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. and the president of Kenya, William Ruto.

In recent weeks, representatives of the warring parties have held side talks in the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain, with the support of the Emirates and Egypt, according to diplomats and media reports. But so far those talks have yielded little result.

In February, a senior Sudanese general, Shams al-Din Kabbashi, suggested that peace efforts had reached a stalemate.

While Sudan’s military “carries an olive branch alongside its gun,” it will not engage in political talks until “the military file is closed,” he said in a speech. “We will fight, we will fight, we will fight.”

By Sam