More than 180 people killed in Sudan fighting: UN envoy

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Smoke rises over buildings during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum, Sudan April 17, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer

At least 185 people have been killed and a further 1,800 injured in three days of fighting between rival factions in Sudan, according to the United Nations special representative for Sudan, as the Group of Seven joined calls for an immediate to end to hostilities.

“It’s a very fluid situation so it’s very difficult to say where the balance is shifting to,” Volker Perthes said on Monday of the violence between the army and paramilitary forces led by rival generals.

The two sides are using tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons in densely populated areas. Fighter jets thundered overhead and anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies as darkness fell.

Speaking to reporters in New York via video, Perthes also said that the warring sides were “not giving the impression that they want mediation for a peace between them right away”.

The sudden outbreak of violence over the weekend between the nation’s two top generals, each backed by tens of thousands of heavily armed fighters, trapped millions of people in their homes or wherever they could find shelter, with supplies running low in many areas.

The power struggle pits General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the commander of the armed forces, against General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group. The former allies jointly orchestrated an October 2021 military coup.

“Gunfire and shelling are everywhere,” Awadeya Mahmoud Koko, head of a union for thousands of tea vendors and other food workers, said from her home in a southern district of Khartoum.

She said a shell stuck a neighbour’s house Sunday, killing at least three people. “We couldn’t take them to a hospital or bury them.”

The violence has raised the spectre of civil war just as Sudanese were trying to revive the drive for a democratic, civilian government after decades of military rule.

Calls for truce

The United Nations, the United States and others have called for a truce. Egypt, which backs Sudan’s military, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – which forged close ties to the RSF as it sent thousands of fighters to support the war in Yemen – have also called for both sides to stand down.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres again called on the warring parties to “immediately cease hostilities” warning that further escalation “could be devastating for the country and the region”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is attending a Group of Seven meeting in Japan, spoke by phone with Burhan and Dagalo separately and underscored the urgency of reaching a ceasefire, according to the State Department’s principal deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the G7 foreign ministers condemned the fighting.

“We urge the parties to end hostilities immediately without pre-conditions,” it said, calling for them to return to negotiations and reduce tensions.

US diplomatic convoy fired on in Sudan, prompting warning from Blinken

A U.S. diplomatic convoy came under fire on Monday in Sudan in an apparent attack by fighters associated with Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday, in an incident he described as “reckless” and “irresponsible”.

The incident prompted a direct warning from Blinken, who separately telephoned RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, and Sudan’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to tell them that any danger posed to American diplomats was unacceptable.

“I can confirm that yesterday we had an American diplomatic convoy that was fired on,” Blinken said at a news conference in the Japanese resort town of Karuizawa where he attended a meeting of the Group of Seven foreign ministers.

“I made very clear that any attacks threats, dangerous posed to our diplomats were totally unacceptable.”

The people in the diplomatic convoy were safe, he said.

“We have deep concerns of course about the overall security environment as it affects civilians, as it affects diplomats, as it affects aid workers,” he said.

The United States was in close coordination other countries that have influence in Sudan, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Britain, he said, as well as the African Union and other international organisations.

Fighting in Sudan has killed at least 185 people and injured more than 1,800 others as both sides claimed gains in a conflict that has seen the use of air strikes and artillery.

Clashes have continued despite numerous calls from the United States and other countries for a halt to fighting as well as efforts by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to get the rivals to agree to a ceasefire.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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