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Starlink Internet Services utilized by Sudan’s paramilitary during nationwide blackout

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In a concerning development amid Sudan’s widespread internet blackout, Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service is reportedly being used by Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF, engaged in a 10-month civil war against Sudan’s army, has allegedly had access to Starlink technology since August, according to diplomats and a humanitarian official in the Darfur region.

Humanitarian agencies have expressed deep concern, stating that the internet blackout is obstructing access to essential assistance for the civilian population caught in the midst of the brutal conflict. The RSF’s deployment of Starlink devices has surged since Sudan’s internet outage over a week ago, with reports suggesting that the technology is being imported through corridors controlled by the RSF, via neighboring Chad and South Sudan.

Videos and images purportedly showing RSF soldiers utilizing Starlink technology have circulated widely on social media. However, Bloomberg could not independently verify the authenticity of these visuals.

The conflict, which erupted in Sudan in April, has already claimed more than 12,000 lives, devastated the economy, and displaced 9 million people – marking the largest mass internal displacement globally. The U.S. State Department has accused both the army and RSF members of committing war crimes in their battle for control over the vast North African nation, strategically located along the Red Sea.

Starlink Inc., Elon Musk’s satellite internet venture, has not immediately responded to inquiries about the reported usage of its services by the RSF. Similarly, representatives of the RSF and the Sudanese army have not provided comments.

Hassan Abdul Alaal, a trader in South Darfur, revealed that RSF-friendly traders in the region are now charging civilians approximately $2 per hour to access Starlink services.

Starlink’s mobile routers have emerged as a crucial component of wartime infrastructure globally, providing communication services in conflict zones where traditional internet services are disrupted.

This incident is not the first time Starlink has been deployed in a conflict zone. Elon Musk previously activated the satellite service in Ukraine during Russia’s invasion. Recently, Ukrainian military intelligence claimed that Russian forces have been using Starlink terminals on the front line, an allegation Starlink denies.

Both sides involved in Sudan’s conflict are pointing fingers at each other for the internet shutdown, affecting major telecom companies like South Africa’s MTN, Kuwait’s Zain Sudan, and the state-owned Sudatel Telecom Group.

Adding to the complexity, reports also indicate that Starlink is now being used by Anonymous Sudan, a hacktivist group, and other terrorist organizations operating within Sudan, raising concerns about the potential misuse of the technology in the ongoing conflict.

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