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Al-Bashir and his allies are released from prison and Khartoum is fighting

Al-Bashir and his allies are released from prison and Khartoum is fighting
  • Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide
  • The release of a former minister accused of war crimes
  • Al-Bashir and his allies were taken to hospital before April 15 – the army
  • Mass release from prisons, chaos grips the city

DUBAI (Reuters) – Gunfire and explosions roared through Sudan’s capital and western suburbs on Wednesday, eroding a truce amid collapsing basic services, dwindling food supplies and the opening of a prison letting out allies of an imprisoned autocratic former ruler.

With the conflict between the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces showing no signs of abating, the military said former President Omar al-Bashir was transferred to a military hospital before hostilities began on April 15.

She added that Al-Bashir was transferred from prison along with 30 former members of his regime, including Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, who is wanted with the former head of the International Criminal Court for war crimes by committing atrocities during a previous conflict in the Darfur region.

Al-Bashir’s whereabouts came into question after a former minister in his government, Ali Haroun, announced on Tuesday that he had left Kober prison in Khartoum with other former officials. Haroun is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on dozens of war crimes charges.

Thousands of convicted criminals, including some on death row, have been held in the vast prison, along with senior and junior officials from the Bashir regime, which was overthrown four years ago.

Sudanese authorities and the RSF traded accusations over the prisoner release, with police saying paramilitary gunmen stormed five prisons over the weekend, killing several guards and breaking open the gates.

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The RSF blamed the authorities for letting Haroun and the others out.

The release of convicted criminals added to a growing sense of lawlessness in Khartoum, where residents reported growing insecurity, with widespread looting and street gangs.

“This war sparked by the deposed regime will lead to the collapse of the country,” said Sudan’s Forces for Freedom and Change, a political grouping leading an internationally backed plan for transition to civilian rule that was derailed by the outbreak of fighting.

Al-Bashir came to power in a military coup in 1989 and was overthrown in a popular uprising in 2019. Two years later, the army under General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, backed by the Rapid Support Forces, took over in a coup.

The current conflict between the army and the commander of the RSF, Major General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, erupted in part over disagreements over the speed of integrating the RSF into the army in light of the planned transition to civilian rule.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has accused al-Bashir of genocide, and also accused Haroun of organizing militias to attack civilians in Darfur in 2003 and 2004. The ICC declined to comment on the transfer of al-Bashir, Haroun and Hussein from prison.

Truth reinforcements

A Reuters correspondent said that renewed fighting broke out in Omdurman, one of the twin cities of Khartoum, where the army was fighting reinforcements of the Rapid Support Forces brought in from other regions in Sudan.

A hospital official said that a shell hit the Al-Roumi Medical Center in Omdurman today, Tuesday, and exploded inside, injuring 13 people.

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The army accused the RSF of using a three-day truce to reinforce itself with men and weapons. The truce was due to expire on Thursday evening.

Thanks to the ceasefire, fighting between army soldiers and the RSF has been quieter in central Khartoum.

The fighting has turned residential areas into battlefields. Airstrikes and artillery have killed at least 459 people, injured more than 4,000, destroyed hospitals and limited food distribution in a country where a third of the 46 million people depend on humanitarian aid.

The UN special envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the ceasefire “seems to be holding in some parts so far”.

However, he said that neither side showed willingness “to negotiate seriously, indicating that both sides believe that achieving a military victory over the other is possible.”

Foreign powers have evacuated thousands of diplomats and citizens in recent days, including 1,674 from 54 countries whom Saudi Arabia has helped.

Sudanese also left, along with citizens of neighboring countries, in large numbers. Authorities in Cairo said more than 10,000 people have crossed into Egypt from Sudan in the past five days, in addition to an estimated 20,000 people who have entered Chad. Others fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia, despite difficult conditions there.

The first Turkish civilians returned to Turkey from Sudan on Wednesday after first arriving in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, by land from Khartoum.

Several more flights are expected later on Wednesday to evacuate the remaining Turkish citizens who crossed into Ethiopia from Sudan.

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(Reporting by Mehmet Emin Kaleskan, Omer Berbroglu, and Deniz Uyar in Istanbul, Michelle Nichols in New York, and Tala Ramadan in Dubai). Written by Michael Georgy. Editing by Simon Cameron Moore

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