The New York Times revealed new information about the Sudanese mercenaries involved in the aggression against Yemen in an investigation into the stages of recruitment of mercenaries and how Saudi and UAE officers dealt with them.
Child soldiers from Sudan’s Darfur have reportedly been fighting on behalf of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the frontline of the deadly war on Yemen, with money being their only motive.
Citing several Sudanese mercenaries and lawmakers, the report said that as many as 14,000 Sudanese militants have been fighting in Yemen alongside Saudi-backed forces while at least hundreds of them have been killed so far.
Almost all the Sudanese come from Darfur and most of them belong to the Rapid Support Forces, a tribal militia previously known as the Janjaweed. They were blamed for war crimes during the Darfur conflict, the report added.
Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a US-backed military aggression against Yemen in March 2015 but have been facing strong resistance from Yemeni armed forces and Popular Committees. The Saudi war has killed tens of thousands of people in Yemen and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.
Sudan joined the US-Saudi aggression, deploying thousands of ground troops to Yemen. Five Sudanese fighters who had returned from Yemen told the New York Times that children made up 20-40 percent of their units in Yemen.
Many of the child soldiers were aged 14 to 17, the report said, and were often sent off to war by their parents, some of whom were so eager for money that they bribed officers of the Sudanese units in Yemen to let their sons go to fight.
“Families know that the only way their lives will change is if their sons join the war and bring them back money,” Hager Shomo Ahmed, who was recruited to fight in Yemen in 2016 when he was just 14, told the New York Times.
Abdul Raheem, 32, said that last year his family paid a local militant leader a bribe worth $1,360 so an older brother could go to Yemen. “People are desperate.
They are fighting in Yemen because they know that in Sudan they don’t have a future. We are exporting soldiers to fight like they are a commodity we are exchanging for foreign currency,” said former banker Hafiz Ismail Mohamed.
Elsewhere, the report said that Saudi or UAE overseers commanded the Sudanese militants by remote control radio headsets and GPS systems in a bid to keep a safe distance from the battle lines.
“The Saudis told us what to do through the telephones and devices,” said Mohamed Suleiman al-Fadil, a 28-year-old ex-Sudanese militant, adding, “They never fought with us.” He also highlighted the Saudis’ incompetence to fight against the Houthis, saying, “Without us, the Houthis would take all of Saudi Arabia, including Mecca.”
“The Saudis would give us a phone call and then pull back,” said Ahmed, 25, who fought near the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah.“They treat the Sudanese like their firewood.”
The Sudanese are paid in Saudi riyals, the equivalent of about $480 a month for a 14-year-old novice to about $530 for an experienced officer. They receive an additional $185 to $285 for any month they saw combat — every month for some.