Residents flee Sudan capital Khartoum as fighting continues
Thousands of civilians have fled Sudan’s capital and foreign nations are trying to evacuate their citizens, amid a fifth day of fierce fighting.
Witnesses reported people leaving Khartoum in cars and on foot on Wednesday morning, as gunfire and deafening explosions rocked the city.Meanwhile, officials in Japan and Tanzania say they are considering missions to evacuate their citizens.
The exodus follows Tuesday’s collapsed ceasefire between the warring factions.
The Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had agreed a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire on Tuesday, but the truce collapsed within minutes of its proposed launch at 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT).A new ceasefire with the same timing was put forward by the RSF on Wednesday. The army said it would abide by the truce – but gunfire can still be heard across the capital.
Smoke can be seen over the area of the army headquarters in the centre of the city, where much of the fighting between rival military factions is centred.
Mohammed Alamin, a journalist based in Khartoum, told BBC Focus on Africa radio that the gunfire hadn’t stopped, despite the supposed ceasefire.“It’s really horrible – these warring parties are firing randomly everywhere,” he said. “I saw, myself, hundreds of people going outside Khartoum, rushing to travel to the neighbouring states.”
Some civilians did not know what was happening – while others directed their anger at both sides.
“Basically the people think that this war is against them,” Mr Alamin said. “This is what the people told me in the streets.”
He also said that one problem with implementing the ceasefire might be the fragmented forces in the city.
“There is a kind of a disconnection between these troops – they are fighting in different areas, in different places with less communication…,” he said.
The fighting at the moment mostly involves shelling, not heavy air bombardments.
Civilians began to flee the capital early on Wednesday morning after fighting resumed and Khartoum was enveloped in thick black smoke following explosions near the army headquarters.
Witnesses reported heavily armed RSF fighters patrolling the city on pick-up trucks, while fighter jets loyal to the military conducted strikes on targets believed to be held by the paramilitary forces.
A shortage of fuel and a lack of public transport has seen many of those fleeing forced to do so on foot, with some seeking to get passage to central and western Sudan – where their families live – on flatbed trucks.
One local fleeing the capital told the BBC that the RSF had set up checkpoints on roads around the city and some of its fighters had robbed him, stealing his phone and some money.
Robberies have also been reported in areas of the capital itself. On Tuesday, residents of the Khartoum 2 area told the BBC that the RSF militia had been going house-to-house in the neighbourhood demanding water and food.
As the fighting intensifies, a number of nations say they have started preparations to evacuate their citizens from the country.
Japan said its Self Defence Forces were considering how to evacuate some 60 Japanese citizens from Sudan, with a military plane placed on standby.
Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stergomena Tax told parliament that his government was also evaluating whether it was possible to evacuate 210 of its citizens.
However, the US embassy in Khartoum said “the uncertain security situation” in the capital meant there were no plans for a “US government-coordinated evacuation”.
And the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told the BBC that it was advising locals calling it for help to stay put and avoid putting themselves in the line of fire.
“Whoever calls, we tell them the truth: ‘Look, right now it’s a challenge to get you out, and it’s better and safer to stay where you are,’” Farid Abdulkadir, the organisation’s chief in Sudan, told Focus on Africa.
The death toll caused by the fighting is unclear, but the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said on Tuesday that at least 174 civilians had been killed in the violence.
In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the US, EU, UK and 12 other nations said the death toll had reached 270.
However, experts say the real figure could be far higher, with many wounded unable to reach hospitals which have reportedly been shelled.
Tanzeel Khan – an Indian national working in Khartoum – told the BBC that airstrikes in the city were putting civilian lives at risk.
“Since this morning, the airstrikes in this area have intensified and we do not know when they’re going to hit our building,” he said. “There are around 15 other people living in the same building who are facing similar difficulties.”
A Russian woman trapped in a Greek Orthodox church in Khartoum said that her situation was growing desperate, after her group ran out of power, food and water.
She told the BBC that “urban electricity [was] cut off from the very beginning of the fighting”, but that a generator powering the church had run out of fuel.
The Norwegian Refugee Council – a humanitarian group that helps people displaced by conflict – said “virtually all humanitarian work has been paralysed” in Sudan and that it was impossible to provide assistance on the ground amid such heavy fighting.
“You cannot operate when there is fighting all over the place, when it’s unsafe to drive on the roads, when the airport is closed,” the organisation’s head Jan Egeland told the BBC.
“I’m talking about humanitarian organisations who have seen their warehouses looted, their compounds invaded, their staff held at gunpoint. You know, colleagues have been sexually abused. It’s really, really very bad,” he added. BBC News
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