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Sudanese paramilitary group says it has seized country’s second-largest city

The paramilitaries fighting Sudan’s army say they have seized control of Nyala, the country’s second-largest city outside the Khartoum area, in a potential turning point in the six-month war.

The Rapid Support Forces said in a statement they had taken over the army’s main headquarters in the city, which is the capital of South Darfur state, and seized all of its equipment. The RSF published video, which Reuters could not verify, of their soldiers celebrating with gunfire, claiming to have overrun the base.

The army did not respond to a request for comment, and a network blackout made it difficult to immediately verify the claim, which came as the two sides were scheduled to restart negotiations in Jeddah.

The RSF have covered most of Khartoum on the ground, but the army has managed to protect its key bases in the national capital. Much of the government has decamped to Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast.

The RSF also published video of their second-in-command, Abdelrahim Dagalo, who has been sanctioned by the US, and said he was leading the effort.

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Nyala, a trade hub which observers say could serve as a base for the RSF, had been the site of fierce fighting, with airstrikes and artillery fire killing scores of people, destroying homes and disabling basic services.

At least 670,000 South Darfur residents have been displaced from their homes, the second worst affected state after Khartoum.

The RSF, whose power base lies in pockets of the Darfur region, have been accused of carrying out an ethnic massacre in West Darfur’s capital, Geneina, and stoking tensions across the region.

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It has also taken control of Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur state. As for the other two state capitals in the region, the RSF have deployed across the East Darfur capital, El Daein, although the army has retained its bases there, and fierce battles continue for control of the North Darfur capital, El Fasher.