Sudan clashes kill dozens including U.N. aid workers – National

The Sudanese army and powerful militias battled for control of the chaos-stricken country on Sunday, showing they were unwilling to end hostilities despite mounting diplomatic pressure for a ceasefire. .

Fierce fighting involving armored vehicles, truck-mounted machine guns and fighter jets raged on Sunday in the capital Khartoum, the neighboring city of Omdurman and flashpoints across the country. Rival powers are believed to have tens of thousands of fighters in the capital alone.

At least 56 civilians were reported dead, including three UN Food Agency employees. The Sudan Doctors Syndicate said it believed dozens more had died among rival forces. Nearly 600 people, including civilians and combatants, were injured.

The clashes are part of a power struggle between the commander of the army, General Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the head of the Rapid Relief Force Group, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. The two generals are former allies who jointly led the October 2021 military coup that derailed Sudan’s short-lived transition to democracy.

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In recent months, internationally backed negotiations have revived hopes for an orderly transition to democracy. However, rising tensions between Burhan and Dagalo eventually delayed a deal with the political party.

In Khartoum and Omdurman, fighting was reported around military headquarters, Khartoum International Airport, and national television headquarters. A senior military official said RSF fighters clashed with troops at military headquarters early Sunday morning, sparking a fire at a ground forces facility.

“The fighting won’t stop,” said Tahani Abbas, a prominent rights advocate who lives near the military headquarters. “They are shooting at each other in the street.

Abass said her family gathered on the ground floor of the house to spend the night. “No one could sleep and the children cried and screamed after each explosion,” she said. Gunshots were heard while she was speaking to the Associated Press.

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Both the military and the RSF claimed to control strategic strongholds in Khartoum and elsewhere in the county. Their claims could not be independently verified.

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Both sides signaled late Saturday that they had no intention of negotiating.

Burhan’s army called for the dissolution of the RSF, calling it a “rebellious militia”. Dagalo told satellite news network Al Arabia that he had ruled out negotiations and asked Burhan to surrender.

Meanwhile, diplomatic pressure appeared to be building.

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Top diplomats, including the US secretary of state, the UN secretary general, the EU’s foreign policy chief, representatives of the Arab League and representatives of the African Union Commission, urged both sides to stop fighting. Members of the UN Security Council, divided over other crises around the world, called for an immediate end to hostilities and a return to dialogue.

Arab countries with interests in Sudan — Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — have also filed similar appeals.

US Secretary of State Anthony Brinken said he had consulted with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “Both parties have agreed that it is imperative that hostilities immediately end without preconditions,” he said in a statement early Sunday.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was “watching with concern” the events unfolding in Sudan. “I am close to the people of Sudanese who are already in distress. I pray for the laying down of arms and the victory of dialogue so that together we can resume the path of peace and harmony.”

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Hostile forces have been fighting in several parts of Sudan, including the West Darfur region, where tens of thousands of people live in camps for displaced people after years of genocidal civil war.

Smoke rises from a neighborhood in Khartoum, Sudan, Saturday, April 15, 2023.

AP Photo/Marwan Ali

In North Darfur, three Sudanese employees of the World Food Program were killed in clashes in the town of Kevukabiya, said Volker Perthes, the UN special envoy for Sudan.

He said UN and other humanitarian facilities had been attacked and looted in several parts of Darfur.

“These repeated acts of violence are impeding the delivery of life-saving aid and must end,” he said. He urged all sides to “ensure the safety and security of the United Nations and all humanitarian personnel and respect the integrity of facilities and assets.”

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Darfur charity spokesman Adam Regal said dozens of people had been killed or injured since Saturday in camps for displaced persons in North Darfur.

In Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, both sides fought for control of the city’s airport, a military official said on condition of anonymity.

Officials said the fighting had also spread to eastern regions, including the states of Kassala and Al-Qadarif, which border Ethiopia and Eritrea. He said the fighting centered around his RSF and army bases.

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Recent tensions stem from disagreements over how to integrate D’Agallo’s RSF into the military and which authorities should oversee the process. The merger is a key condition of Sudan’s unsigned transition agreement with the political group.

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Pro-democracy activists have committed human rights abuses against protesters across the county over the past four years, including the fatal collapse of a protest camp outside Khartoum’s military headquarters in June 2019, which killed more than 120 protesters. I have accused Barhan and Dagalo of having gone. Many groups have repeatedly called for them to be held accountable. The RSF has long been accused of atrocities related to the Darfur conflict.

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At the crossroads of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan is known for its history of military coups and civil wars since it gained independence in the 1950s.

The country shares borders with six African countries and has a strategic coastline on the Red Sea. South Sudan became independent in 2011 after a decade-long civil war.

Clashes will further exacerbate Sudan’s predicament. About 16 million people in Sudan, a third of her population, are already dependent on humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

Magdy reports from Cairo.

Contributed by Frances D’Emilio, an Associated Press writer in Rome.

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