Sudan National Museum in Khartoum (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have taken hold of the Sudan National Museum, the largest museum in the country, Reuters reports.

The museum’s Deputy Director Ekhlas Abdellatif told the publication that RSF fighters entered the museum on Friday, June 2. The National Museum is located in the center of the capital, Khartoum, on the Blue Nile River, where fighting between the RSF and military forces led by de-facto ruler Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has been heavily concentrated since the conflict broke out in mid-April. 

A video posted to social media late last week appears to show RSF members inside the National Museum. Men who Reuters identified as RSF fighters appear to be in a room with uncovered mummified remains from the museum’s collections, although it is unclear why these remains are exposed and their current condition is unknown. RSF fighters denied any damage or destruction done to the museum in the video, but French archaeologist Roxanne Trioux told Reuters that her team has been monitoring satellite images of the museum and that they have already noticed potential signs of burning.

The situation inside the Sudan National Museum is still unclear, as staff has not been able to work inside the building since the conflict broke out on April 15. Hyperallergic has contacted both the deputy director and director of the Sudan National Museum for more information.

A two-story building constructed in 1955 and established in 1971, the Sudan National Museum has one of the world’s oldest, most comprehensive Nubian archaeological collections with artifacts ranging from the Paleolithic period through the Islamic period. Abdellatif told reporters that the mummified remains inside the museum date as far back as 2,500 BCE, which makes them some of the oldest archaeological human remains in the world, according to Reuters.

Several other significant museums, including Sudan’s Museum of Ethnography, the Republican Palace Museum, and the Sudan Natural History Museum, are also located in the city center and were flagged as potential targets for looting and destruction by an International Council of Museums (ICOM) report published in late April.

There have also been reports of destruction to other cultural and historical sites, including a social science library at the University of Omdurman al-Ahlia. Hyperallergic also received an alert that the RSF raided and looted a private museum belonging to Abdallah Khalil, who served as the second Prime Minister of Sudan from 1956 to 1958 during the country’s first democracy. 

Since the violent struggle for power between the RSF, led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, and al-Burhan’s military forces broke out, at least 1.4 million civilians have been forced to leave their homes, including the internal displacement of one million people, and over 330,000 others have been driven into neighboring countries for safety, according to the latest reports from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Despite multiple attempted truces, including one negotiated between Saudi Arabia and the United States, violence has continued to erupt between the rival factions. Last Thursday, June 1, the United States announced it was imposing sanctions on companies linked to the Sudan conflict to quell the fighting between the warring factions. On Friday, the United Nations Security Council also called on the RSF and Sudanese army in a public statement to stop the fighting in order to allow access for humanitarian aid to the area, as well as “to resume the process towards reaching a lasting, inclusive, and democratic political settlement in Sudan.”

On Saturday, residents reported clashes between the RSF and the military in southern and northern districts of Khartoum, as well as in Sharg el-Nil, located to the east of the city, according to Reuters.

Maya Pontone (she/her) is a Staff News Writer at Hyperallergic. Originally from Northern New Jersey, she currently resides in Brooklyn, where she covers daily news, both within and outside New York City....