Sudanese ceasefire shaky as foreigners evacuate citizens

A United States-brokered ceasefire between Sudan’s warring generals entered its second day Wednesday but remained fragile after witnesses reported fresh air strikes and paramilitaries claimed to have seized a major oil refinery and power plant.

UN Special Representative Volker Perthes told the Security Council that, “The pause was not fully upheld, with attacks on headquarters, attempts to gain ground, air strikes, and explosions in different areas of the capital.”

Perthes said he maintained contact with both generals: army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy-turned-rival, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the heavily armed paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

According to Perthes, “There is yet no unequivocal sign that either is ready to seriously negotiate.”

Security fears were compounded when the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a “huge biological risk” after fighters occupied a Khartoum laboratory holding samples of cholera, measles, polio and other infectious diseases.

With the heaviest combat eased, thousands of foreigners as well as Sudanese continued to flee the capital.

Ten days of heavy fighting until Monday has killed hundreds of people, left bodies rotting in the streets, and some neighbourhoods of greater Khartoum in ruins.

Bewildered civilians were seen walking down one street in Khartoum North where almost all buildings were blasted out and smoke rose from scorched ruins, in unverified video posted on social media.

Witnesses in the same area later reported air strikes, and paramilitary forces firing anti-aircraft weapons.

In the capital’s twin city Omdurman, witnesses heard gunfire.

Late Tuesday witnesses reported more air strikes in Khartoum North where they said fighter jets struck RSF vehicles heading north.

The RSF posted a video in which it claimed to be in control of an oil refinery and the associated Garri power plant more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of Khartoum.

Shortly before, the army had warned in a Facebook post of “heavy movement towards the refinery in order to take advantage of the truce by taking control of the refinery”

The two sides have both made unverifiable claims to control of key sites, adding to what experts call an overwhelming state of fear in the capital.

According to lawyers, at least one jailbreak took place earlier this week, with reports of another at Kober prison, where former dictator Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide is being held.

With much of the city of five million seeing a relative reduction in fighting, foreign governments have been organising road convoys, aircraft and ships to get thousands of their nationals out.

Witnesses in Wad Banda, West Kordofan state, reported clashes between the army and RSF, including the use of fighter jets.

West Kordofan is adjacent to Sudan’s Darfur region which has seen heavy fighting and the looting of aid depots, but the UN cited reports that in North Darfur state a local ceasefire had been in place since late last week.

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