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Reuters: Al-Bashir Islamists Aiding al-Burhan, Sudan Army

FILE: Then-Sudan President Omar al-Bashir (L) tours in a vehicle with Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitaries chief Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, at the RSF headquarters in South Darfur State. Reuters reports that al-Bashir people are now backing Sudan army chief Abdel al-Burhan.

DUBAI — Reuters asserts that thousands of men who worked as intelligence operatives under former president Omar al-Bashir and have ties to his Islamist movement are fighting alongside the army in Sudan's war, three military sources and one intelligence source said.

In response to a question from Reuters for this article, which spoke to 10 source, including military and intelligence sources and several Islamists. an army official said: "The Sudanese army has no relation with any political party or ideologue. It is a professional institution."

The Sudan army has long denied accusations by its rivals in the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that it depends on discredited loyalists of former president Omar al-Bashir, an Islamist long shunned by the West, who was toppled during a popular uprising in 2019.

Al-Bashir's former ruling National Congress Party said in a statement it had no ties to the fighting and only backed the army politically.

Yet the three military sources and an intelligence source said thousands of Islamists were battling alongside the army.

"Around 6,000 members of the intelligence agency joined the army several weeks before the conflict," said a military official familiar with the army's operations, speaking on condition on anonymity.

"They are fighting to save the country."

Former officials of the country's now-disbanded National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), a powerful institution composed mainly of Islamists, confirmed these numbers.

"We are fighting and supporting the army to protect our country from external intervention and keep our identity and our religion," said one Islamist fighting alongside the army.

The NISS was replaced by the General Intelligence Service (GIS) after Bashir was toppled, and stripped of its armed "operations" unit, according to a constitutional agreement.

Most of the men from that unit have sided with the army, but some former operations unit members and Islamists who served under al-Bashir entered the RSF, one army source and one intelligence source said.

"We are working in a very hard situation on the ground to back up the army, especially with information about RSF troops and their deployment," said a GIS official.

Former officials of the country's now-disbanded National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), a powerful institution composed mainly of Islamists, confirmed these numbers.

In a development indicative of Islamist involvement, an Islamist fighter named Mohammed al-Fadl was killed this month in clashes between RSF forces and the army, said family members and Islamists. He had been fighting alongside the army, they said.

Ali Karti, secretary general of Sudan's main Islamic organisation, sent a statement of condolences for al-Fadl.

Before the outbreak of violence, al-Bashir supporters had been lobbying against a plan for a transition to elections under a civilian government. Disputes over the chain of command and the structure of the military under the plan triggered the fighting.

About a week after fighting broke out in April, a video on social media showed about a dozen former intelligence officials in army uniforms announcing themselves as reserve forces.

The footage could not be independently verified by Reuters.

Several senior Bashir loyalists walked free from prison in Bahri, across the Nile from central Khartoum, during a wider prison break amid fighting in late April. The circumstances of their release remain unclear. Al-Bashir is in a military hospital.