Crescent Kashmir

Thousands flee as Sudan’s army, paramilitary forces battle for aid hub

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DUBAI: Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces battled the army outside the central city of Wad Madani, pressing an attack that has opened a new front in the eight-month-old war and forced thousands to flee, witnesses said.

Crowds of people — many of whom had taken refuge in the city from violence in the capital Khartoum — could be seen packing up belongings and leaving on foot in video posted on social media.

“The war has followed us to Madani so I am looking for a bus so me and my family can flee,” 45-year-old Ahmed Salih said. “We are living in hell and there is no one to help us.” He said he planned to head south to Sennar.

Sudan’s army, which has held the city since the start of the conflict, launched air strikes on RSF forces to the east of the city, the capital of Gezira state, as it tried to push back the assault that started on Friday, witnesses said.

The RSF responded with artillery and RSF reinforcements were seen moving in the direction of the fighting, the witnesses added. RSF soldiers have also been seen in villages to the north and west of the city in recent days and weeks, residents said.

The United Nations said 14,000 people had fled the area so far, and a few thousand had already reached other cities. Half a million people had sought refuge in Gezira, mainly from Khartoum.

The Sudanese Doctors Union warned in a statement that hospitals in the area, which had become a humanitarian and medical hub, were emptying out and could be forced to shut. It also said that more than 340 children and staff relocated from the Maygoma orphanage in Khartoum were in need of urgent help relocating.

The US State Department called on the RSF to cease its advance in Gezira State immediately and to refrain from attacking Wad Medani. It also urged the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) to avoid clashes with the RSF and other actions endangering civilians.

It said there were “troubling reports” indicating that elite RSF units had travelled to reinforce attacks in the direction of Wad Medani, threatening civilians “in a manner inconsistent with RSFs stated claims that it is fighting to protect Sudan’s people.”

The State Department statement said a continued RSF advance risked mass civilian casualties and significant disruption of humanitarian assistance efforts.

In a statement, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that “perpetrators of terror will be held accountable.” The fighting has raised fears for other army-held cities in southern and eastern Sudan where tens of thousands of people have been sheltering.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2023


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