Sudan conflict: Turkish evacuation plan shot at, fighting in Darfur

NAIROBI – Fresh fighting rocked Sudan and its battered capital on Friday, with Turkey reporting that one of its evacuation planes had been shot down, even as world leaders announced the renewal of an already deficient

In Sudan’s western Darfur region, ethnic fighting in a town between African and Arab armed groups erupted in a dark reminder of the brutal conflict that once rocked the entire area, as French troops crossed the border from Chad to evacuate UN staff to another city.

Millions of people have been stranded since fighting broke out between the army and the heavily armed paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15. A fifth ceasefire was announced late Thursday, intended to last three days, but like the others, was immediately violated, with fighting in the capital and elsewhere even as world leaders welcomed satisfaction the “willingness of the parties to the conflict to engage in dialogue to establish a more durable cessation of hostilities and ensure unimpeded humanitarian access”.

In an interview with the US-funded Arabic TV channel Al-Hurra on Friday, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, army chief and de facto head of state, said he would not negotiate with the RSF commander , General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti. Burhan said he had proposed that both he and Hemedti resign, but that Hemedti had refused.

“It is unacceptable to sit with Hemedti as a rebel against the state,” Burhan said, although he expressed openness to two initiatives, led by a bloc of East African countries and the United States, to stop the fights

People fleeing Sudan tell stories of fear and violence on the road

The ceasefire, although never total, has occasionally led to a reduction in violence in some parts of the capital, which has allowed locals to flee and some foreign evacuation flights.

Those flights, from an airfield just north of Khartoum, could be in jeopardy later Turkey announced Early Friday that “small arms fire was fired at our C-130 evacuation aircraft, which was on its way to Wadi Sayidna on a mission to evacuate our citizens who were trapped in Sudan, where fighting continued.” No Turkish personnel were injured, and the plane landed “unsafely,” the message said, without specifying when the attack occurred. Pictures posted online showed at least one bullet hole in the plane.

The army and RSF blamed each other for the attack. The airfield is secured by foreign troops and has so far been used to evacuate citizens from more than 41 countries, including France, Germany and Britain. Airfield evacuations included a handful of US citizens.

Britain said on Friday it would end its evacuation flights from Khartoum on Saturday as demand for seats eased. The operation has evacuated more than 1,500 people, most of them British, since Tuesday.

Canadian officials said Friday morning that they had halted evacuation flights in part because of the situation involving the Turkish flight. By afternoon, they said the airspace had reopened and airlifts had resumed. Still, they emphasized that they were in a race against the clock.

“The window to safely evacuate personnel by air is closing fast,” the officials said at a briefing, speaking on condition of anonymity under government-mandated rules.

But many are still trapped. Among them are members of an American family with two young girls who reported shootings on their street in Khartoum early Friday morning that peppered the lower walls of their home with bullets. They say they have been trying to find a driver to take them to safety for more than six days, but prices are sky-high, gas is scarce and drivers are afraid to enter neighborhoods where there is fighting.

Muawiya Jaden, 29, said there had been fighting in southern Khartoum since 7:30am. He lives less than a mile from the Army Air Defense Command, he said.

“I’m talking to you from under the bed now,” he said over the phone. “There is no water and we haven’t eaten anything since yesterday because of these clashes.”

Muhammad Abdul Rahman Abdullah, 24, said the planes were shelling RSF positions near Jabal Awlia hospital. “There is a large deployment of Rapid Support Forces infantry inside the neighborhoods after the fighting intensified,” he said. “This area is densely populated.”

The United Nations human rights office on Friday accused RSF fighters of forcing civilians from their homes.

Americans and other foreigners are struggling to flee Sudan amid fierce fighting

Conditions at the borders are also dire, with thousands waiting for days in the desert, trying to flee through unmanned border crossings into Egypt or cramming onto boats sent by Saudi Arabia to ferry people to Jiddah. At least two people have died at the Argeen Egyptian border crossing, with others requiring intravenous fluids or CPR, witnesses said.

In the vast and arid western region of Darfur, the scene of a savage civil conflict in the past, a truce has largely held until recently. The fight took place this week in the city of Geneina, which was spared the initial violence.

“Filming is still going on in the market. … There are no government forces to protect citizens on the ground,” a 35-year-old Geneina resident said on Friday. She declined to use her name for fear of reprisals from security forces or other armed groups .

“There are injured people who couldn’t get to the hospital,” he said. “There is no electricity or water.”

In an echo of the ethnic conflicts that gripped the region two decades ago and led to accusations of genocide, a witness told The Washington Post that the sudden outbreak of fighting has been mainly between the ethnically African Masalit groups and Arab militant groups.

The specter of renewed violence hangs over Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of people have died during a 20-year civil war that pitted Arab militant groups, known as the Janjaweed, against ethnic sub-Saharan rebels.

Militant groups attacked the city from four directions on Thursday morning, said the witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “They came on motorbikes and they have other vehicles,” he said. Eventually, a former rebel group known as the Sudanese Alliance, which signed the 2020 peace deal that ended the war, repelled the attackers. The witness said 119 people had died in the fighting, adding to the 96 deaths reported in the previous days. Markets and many homes and businesses had been looted, he said.

The dead were being collected in one place so people could try to identify them, he said, adding that many displaced families, including women and children, had been killed. Militant groups also burned down government offices.

“They are still collecting the bodies,” he said. “We have a small clinic in our area and they are listing the names of the victims and the injured.”

On Friday, the Sudanese Alliance patrolled the streets in armored vehicles.

“The Janjaweed militias target anyone who is black,” the witness said. “I fear that this conflict in West Darfur will be a civil war.”

Why fighting in Sudan is a problem for its neighbors

Meanwhile, in the North Darfur town of El Fasher, French troops who crossed the border from Chad after sunset evacuated aid workers from an airfield, an evacuee confirmed.

“With very close coordination and cooperation between the two warring parties and the government of North Darfur, we managed to facilitate the evacuation of 113 humanitarian workers from different UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations from El Fasher to Chad” , said the governor of North Darfur, Maj. Gen. Nimir Abdulrahman, told The Post in a text message.

Claire Parker in Boston and Kareem Fahim in Istanbul contributed to this report.

Source link

Related Posts

Next Post