/Fighting in Sudan: Ceasefire crumbles amid chaos in Khartoum as death toll reaches 270

Fighting in Sudan: Ceasefire crumbles amid chaos in Khartoum as death toll reaches 270


Gunshots, explosions and warplanes were heard in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Tuesday as gunmen stormed the homes of people working for the United Nations and other international organizations, amid conflicting reports of an agreed ceasefire. in the country.

Fighting between the country’s armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is in its fourth day in Khartoum, both near the army command and the presidential palace, and near two RSF bases to the north and west of the city. capital.

Attempts at a truce fell apart on Tuesday night when fighting between the two factions resurfaced in central Khartoum, just hours after they agreed to a 24-hour ceasefire, which took effect at 6 p.m. local time ( 12 p.m. ET), according to witnesses. .

Residents remain trapped in the middle of other parts of Sudan; The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said a lack of medical supplies, blood and electricity threatened life-saving treatment in Sudan, adding that 11 had died of their injuries in North Darfur and the last operating hospital in the western region has received dozens of injured patients. in the last 48 hours.

At least 270 people have been killed and more than 2,600 injured in the unrest, according to World Health Organization (WHO) officials citing Sudan’s Health Ministry’s Emergency Operations Center.

Armed personnel raided the homes of UN staff and employees of other international organizations in downtown Khartoum, according to reports in an internal UN document seen by CNN.

According to the document, the armed men sexually assaulted women and stole belongings, including cars. “In Khartoum, armed uniformed personnel, allegedly from RSF, are entering expatriate residences, separating men and women and taking them away,” the report read. A rape incident was also reported.

Houses have been damaged during four days of violence.

RSF denied those reports, telling CNN in a statement that it “will never attack any UN staff or employees. RSF is very conscious of respecting international law.”

The statement went on to blame the opposing side in the fighting, led by Sudanese military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan: “This is the new desperate way of fighting for Burhan’s army. They provide their people with RSF uniforms so that they can commit crimes against civilians and embassies and other groups, including the UN, so that the image and perspective of RSF can harm everyone, international and local.”

The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) denied that its troops were involved in the violations and pointed to an earlier statement on crimes against humanity allegedly committed by RSF forces.

Khartoum has been rocked by violence and chaos in a bloody power struggle between Burhan, Sudan’s military chief, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, who is the head of the RSF.

Satellite images of the plume of smoke at Khartoum International Airport on Sunday.

The two leaders have traded blame for instigating the fighting and breaking temporary ceasefires.

Colonel Khaled Al-Aqeel, a spokesman for the SAF, told Al Jazeera that they were interested in continuing the truce on Tuesday, shortly after shots were heard in the country’s capital.

The adviser to the RSF commander, Mousa Khaddam, also said that the paramilitary force is also committed to the truce, telling al-Jazeera: “Our forces that are deployed in multiple regions of Khartoum are committed to the ceasefire.”

However, the fighting appeared to continue hours after the truce was due to take effect. A witness told CNN that they heard sounds of explosions around the Army General Command building and the Presidential Palace in Khartoum.

For more than three days, Khartoum University students have been trapped inside campus buildings as artillery and gunfire rained down around them in the Sudanese capital. “It is scary that our country will become a battlefield overnight,” said Al-Muzaffar Farouk, 23, one of 89 students, faculty and staff taking refuge inside the university library. .

Food and water are running low, but leaving is not an option: a student has already been shot dead outside. Khalid Abdulmun’em had been trying to run to the library from a nearby building when he was struck, Farouk said.

The students recovered his body and brought it inside “despite the bullets raining down on us,” he added.

The university confirmed Abdulmun’em’s death in a Facebook post, saying he had been shot on campus. In a separate post Monday, the university urged humanitarian organizations to help evacuate dozens of people stranded on campus.

Eyewitnesses described the scenes in the Sudanese capital.

“I can see smoke outside coming from the buildings. And I can hear from my residence explosions, strong shots from outside. The streets are totally empty,” said Germain Mwehu, a Red Cross staff member from Khartoum.

“In the building where I am staying, I saw families with children, children crying when there are airstrikes, children in horror,” Mwehu said, adding that people had little or no access to food or medicine due to the fierce fighting outside.

Children are among those killed; A 6-year-old boy was killed Monday after the RSF shelled a hospital in Khartoum and damaged a maternity ward. Doctors were forced to evacuate, leaving behind patients, some newborns in incubators.

At least half a dozen hospitals have been attacked by both warring sides, according to the Sudan Doctors Union.

Smoke billows from a burning plane inside Khartoum airport during clashes on April 17.

Health services have been severely affected by the fighting. Cyrus Paye, MSF project coordinator in North Darfur’s El Fasher, said in a statement that the only remaining hospital in North Darfur “is rapidly running out of medical supplies to treat survivors.”

Other hospitals in North Darfur have had to close, either due to their proximity to the fighting or the inability of staff to reach the facilities due to the violence, it added.

MSF teams also face “serious challenges” in other parts of the country, according to the statement. The group’s facilities in Nyala, South Darfur, have been looted and in the capital Khartoum, most teams are trapped by ongoing heavy fighting and unable to access warehouses to deliver vital medical supplies to hospitals.

Multiple diplomats and aid workers have been attacked.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed there was an attack on a US diplomatic convoy on Monday.

“Yesterday we had a US diplomatic convoy get shot at. All of our people are safe, but this action was reckless, irresponsible and, of course, unsafe,” Blinken said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The European Union ambassador to Sudan was also attacked at his residence on Monday, although he is now well, according to a spokesman for the EU’s top diplomat.

And three UN World Food Program (WFP) workers were killed in Darfur, prompting the WFP to temporarily halt all services in the country.

In remarks early Tuesday morning, the two rival factions pointed fingers at each other.

RSF accused the army of carrying out air strikes on residential neighborhoods and of attacking the headquarters of the EU ambassador in Khartoum; meanwhile, the army accused the RSF of attacking the ambassador’s residence and attacking the WFP headquarters in Darfur.

Several foreign leaders have called for peace, and Blinken spoke separately with Burhan and Dagalo on Tuesday.

Blinken “expressed grave concern over the deaths and injuries of so many Sudanese civilians” and argued that a ceasefire was necessary to deliver aid, reunite separated families, and ensure the safety of diplomatic and humanitarian personnel, according to a US State reading. US Department.

And Egypt has been “in direct communication with both sides” encouraging restraint, a cessation of hostilities and a return to dialogue,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

The Sudanese Armed Forces later issued conflicting statements about a proposed 24-hour ceasefire, which was to take effect later on Tuesday.

A statement quoting a spokesman on the official SAF Facebook page said the armed forces “are not aware of any coordination with mediators and the international community on a truce” and that RSF’s announcement of a 24-year truce hours “aims to cover up the crushing.” defeat that he will receive in a few hours”.

But Burhan previously told CNN that the SAF will “adhere” to a ceasefire proposal from the tripartite mechanism, which comprises the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), the African Union (AU ) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Meanwhile, Dagalo said on Twitter that the paramilitary force approved a 24-hour ceasefire “to guarantee the safe passage of civilians and the evacuation of the wounded.”

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus condemned the conflict in Sudan on Tuesday, saying medical supplies have run out, medical personnel are lacking on the ground and some health care facilities have been looted or are being used. for military purposes. .

Volker Perthes, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, said on Monday that the organization has been trying to convince the two rival parties to “hold the fire” for a period of time and asked them to protect embassies, UN offices, humanitarian agencies and medical facilities.

Both sides had previously agreed to a three-hour ceasefire on Sunday and again on Monday, with fighting resuming afterwards, Perthes said.

But both Burhan and Dagalo have since accused the other of breaking that ceasefire.

When CNN spoke to Burhan on Monday afternoon, the sound of gunshots played in the background despite the alleged ceasefire, with Burhan claiming Dagalo had violated him for a second day.

An RSF spokesman refuted the accusation, stating that they had been trying to comply with the ceasefire, but “they keep firing, leaving no choice” but RSF “to defend itself by counter-attacking.”