(Khartoum) A former official of the dictatorship in Sudan suspected of crimes against humanity has escaped from prison in the company of ex-collaborators in Khartoum, where new fighting between the army and the paramilitaries threatens the fragile cease fire.
On Wednesday, clashes continued in the capital where army fighter jets flew over the northern suburbs, coming under heavy artillery fire from paramilitaries, witnesses told AFP.
The eastern outskirts of Khartoum were targeted by airstrikes and machine gun clashes took place in the southern outskirts, where a house of the paramilitary leader is located, other witnesses said.
The head of the UN mission in Sudan, Volker Perthes, who remained in the country, said on Wednesday he was “deeply concerned by recent reports of violence in El-Geneina”, the capital of West Darfur, including “attacks on civilians and looting”.
Despite the announcement of a ceasefire concluded under the aegis of the United States, the deadly fighting has not ceased since April 15 between the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane’s regular army.
Allies during the October 2021 coup, the two generals are now waging a merciless war which has left 512 dead and 4,193 injured, according to a report released on Wednesday by the Sudanese Ministry of Health.
This putsch had ended the democratic transition that followed the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir, ousted in 2019 under pressure from the street and imprisoned after 30 years in power.
Taking advantage of a chaotic situation, an important figure in the Bashir regime, Ahmed Haroun, announced on Tuesday that he had escaped from Kober prison in Khartoum, along with other senior officials of the Islamo-military dictatorship.
“We were detained in Kober for nine days…and now we have the responsibility for our protection” in another location, Haroun said in an address broadcast on a Sudanese television channel.
Bashir, who was also detained in Kober prison, was according to the army transferred before the start of the fighting to a hospital where he was still on Wednesday “under the custody of the judicial police”.
The ex-dictator is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” in Darfur, western Sudan, like Mr. Haroun.
The ICC prosecutor’s office said it was following events closely, noting that information about those incarcerated in Kober had not been “independently confirmed”.
A conflict broke out in Darfur in 2003 between Khartoum and members of non-Arab ethnic minorities. It killed some 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, according to the UN. The FSR bring together thousands of former Arab militiamen recruited by Bashir and suspected of abuses in Darfur.
The UN envoy said belligerents were “attacking densely populated areas without regard to civilians, hospitals, or even vehicles carrying the wounded and sick”.
The African Union warned on Wednesday of a “risk of regional explosion and internationalization of the conflict”.
Some “6,000 people of different nationalities crossed” the border with Ethiopia, said a Sudanese official at the Gallabat border crossing (east).
Several tens of thousands of people have already arrived in all the countries bordering Sudan, according to the UN, which fears a mass exodus and estimates that a total of 270,000 people could flee to Chad and South Sudan.
“The hardest thing is the sound of bombings and fighter jets flying over our house. It terrified the children,” says Safa Abu Taher, repatriated with his family to Jordan.
A boat carrying 1,687 civilians who fled Sudan from more than 50 countries arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
245 French and foreign nationals evacuated by air by the French authorities landed near Paris and the UK government announced that it had evacuated more than 300 people, mostly British.
Those who cannot leave Khartoum, a city of more than five million people, are trying to survive without water and electricity, subject to food shortages and telephone and internet blackouts.
According to the doctors’ union, almost three-quarters of hospitals are out of service in Sudan. In Khartoum, more than 60% of medical centers are closed, the World Health Organization announced on Wednesday.
The WHO added that a “thorough health risk assessment” was being carried out after one of the two sides took over a “public laboratory” in Khartoum, which contains pathogens of measles, cholera and poliomyelitis.
In the eyes of Dame Rosalind Marsden, former British Ambassador and former European Union Special Representative for Sudan, “what we are witnessing is a power struggle between two generals, but it is also an attempt to derail Sudan’s democratic transition and bring the country back under the control of the old regime”.