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Sudan crisis: Fighting continues, ceasefire set to end at midnight

Army says heavily armed wing of police force deployed; ICRC delivers emergency medical aid


By El Tayeb Siddig and Aidan Lewis

KHARTOUM, April 30 (Reuters) - Sudan's rival military forces accused each other of fresh violations of a ceasefire that is set to expire on Sunday as their deadly conflict continued for a third week despite warnings of a slide towards catastrophic civil war.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands wounded since a long-simmering power struggle between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted into conflict on April 15.
Locked in a battle for Khartoum, Sudan's capital on the Nile, the parties have fought on despite a series of ceasefires secured by mediators including the United States, the latest of which expires at midnight (2200 GMT).
The situation in Khartoum, where the army has been battling RSF forces entrenched in residential areas, was relatively calm on Sunday morning, a Reuters journalist said, after heavy clashes were heard on Saturday evening near the city centre.
The army said on Sunday it had destroyed RSF convoys moving towards Khartoum from the west. The RSF said the army had used artillery and warplanes to attack its positions in a number of areas in Khartoum province.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
In an apparent bid to boost its forces, the army said on Saturday that the Central Reserve Police had begun to deploy in southern Khartoum and would be deployed gradually in other areas of the capital.
Sudan's police said that the force had been deployed to protect markets and property that had been subjected to looting.
The RSF on Saturday warned it against becoming involved in fighting.
The force is a large and heavily-armed division of Sudan's police force that has fighting experience from conflicts in the western region of Darfur and in the Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan.
In March 2022, the United States imposed sanctions on the force, accusing it of using excessive force against protesters who were demonstrating against a 2021 military coup.
The fighting in Khartoum has so far seen RSF forces fan out across the city as the army tries to target them largely by using air strikes from drones and fighter jets.
The conflict has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing across Sudan's borders and prompted warnings the country could disintegrate, destabilising a volatile region.
"I left everything - my house, my car my everything and all my savings for 13 years. I’m leaving here, just to save my life," said Mohammed Ali, a Pakistani man waiting to be evacuated from Port Sudan, part of an exodus of foreigners.
The prospects for negotiations have appeared bleak.
Army leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has said he would never sit down with General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti. The RSF chief in turn said he would talk only after the army ceased hostilities.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, whose government has played a part in mediating ceasefires, met Burhan envoy Daffalla Al-Haj Ali in Riyadh, the Saudi foreign ministry said.
"The foreign minister affirmed the Kingdom's call for calm, prioritising national interest and stopping all forms of military escalation," the ministry said.
U.N. special representative in Sudan, Volker Perthes, told Reuters on Saturday he had recently sensed a change in the sides' attitudes and they were more open to negotiations, and were saying they would accept "some form of talks", though no timetable had been set.
With the United Nations reporting only 16% of health facilities in Khartoum operating as normal, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivered 8 tonnes of medical aid.
"Health-care workers in Sudan have been doing the impossible, caring for the wounded without water, electricity, and basic medical supplies," said Patrick Youssef, the ICRC’s regional director for Africa.
But while approval had been given for the supplies to go to Khartoum, negotiations were ongoing with the sides to facilitate delivery within the city, where hospitals, convoys and ambulances have been attacked, he said.
At least five aid workers have been killed in the fighting.
A third of Sudan's 46 million people needed humanitarian aid before fighting began.
The fighting has derailed an internationally-backed political transition aimed at establishing democratic government in Sudan, where former autocratic President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was toppled in 2019 after three decades in power.
"This war will not lead to a singular army or to a democratic transition and there is no guarantee that the deposed regime will not return to power once more," prominent civilian politician Khalid Omar Yousif said on Twitter.
At least 528 people have been killed and 4,599 wounded, the health ministry said. The United Nations has reported a similar number of dead, but believes the real toll is much higher.
(Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz, Eltayeb Siddig and Ibrahim Mohamed Ishak in Sudan; Aidan Lewis, Nafisa Eltahir and Hatem Maher in Cairo; 
Writing by Tom Perry 
Editing by Frances Kerry)

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First Published: Apr 30 2023 | 7:28 PM IST

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