Sudan strife: Turkish evacuation plan shot up, fighting in Darfur

NAIROBI (AP) — Gunmen fired on a Turkish plane trying to evacuate stranded citizens from Sudan’s battered capital on Friday, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said, hours after French troops crossed the border from Chad to evacuate more than 100 United Nations employees and aid workers from another city. .

Millions were stranded after fighting broke out on April 15 between the army and the heavily armed paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF). it was immediately breached by fighting in the capital and elsewhere.

Ceasefires, though never total, have occasionally resulted in a reduction in violence in some parts of the capital, allowing locals to flee and some evacuation flights for foreigners.

People fleeing Sudan tell stories of fear and violence on the road

Those flights from an airfield north of Khartoum could be in jeopardy after Türkiye announced early Friday morning that “small arms were fired at our C-130 evacuation plane, which was heading to Wadi Sayidna for the mission to evacuate our citizens who were trapped in Sudan, where fighting was continuing.” There were no injuries among Turkish personnel and the plane landed “safely,” the message said, without specifying when the attack occurred.

The army and RSF blamed each other for the attack. The airfield is secured by foreign troops and has so far been used to evacuate citizens from more than 41 countries, including France, Germany, Britain and a handful of Americans.

But thousands of Americans are still trapped, including a family with two young girls, who reported gunshots on their street in Khartoum on Friday morning that peppered the lower walls of their home with bullets. They have been trying for more than six days to find a driver to take them to safety, but prices are skyrocketing, gasoline is scarce and drivers are afraid to enter neighborhoods where fighting is taking place.

Americans and other foreigners struggle to flee Sudan amid fierce fighting

Conditions at the borders are also dire, with thousands of people waiting for days in the desert, trying to flee through unmanned border crossings into Egypt or cramming onto boats sent by Saudi Arabia to Jiddah. At least two people have died at the Egyptian border crossing at Argeen and others have had to receive intravenous fluids or administer CPR, witnesses said.

In the vast and arid western region of Darfur, the scene of savage civil conflicts in the past, a the truce has largely held until very recently. The town of Geneina, which was spared from the initial violence, has witnessed fierce fighting this week.

In an echo of the ethnic fighting that raged in the region two decades ago and prompted accusations of genocide, a witness told The Washington Post that the sudden outbreak of fighting has been mainly between the ethnically African Masalit group and Arab militias.

The specter of ethnic violence hangs over Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed during a 20-year civil war that pitted Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, against ethnically sub-Saharan African rebels.

The militias attacked the town from four directions on Thursday morning, said the witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “They came with motorcycles and they have some other vehicles,” he said. Eventually, a former rebel group known as the Sudanese Alliance, which had signed the 2020 peace deal that ended the war, repelled the attackers, he said. The witness said that 119 people had been killed in the fighting, adding to the 96 killed in the previous days. Markets and many houses and businesses had been looted, he said.

The dead were being collected in one place, he said, so people could try to identify them, adding that many displaced families had been killed, including women and children. The militias also burned government offices.

“They are still collecting the bodies,” he said. “We have a small clinic in our area and they are listing the names of the victims and the injured.”

On Friday, the Sudanese Alliance patrolled the streets in armored vehicles.

“The Janjaweed militias are attacking any black person,” he said. “I am afraid that this conflict in West Darfur will be a civil war.”

Why fighting in Sudan spells trouble for its neighbors

Meanwhile, in the northern Darfur town of El Fasher, French troops crossed the border from Chad after sunset and evacuated aid workers from the airfield, an evacuee on board the plane confirmed.

“With very close coordination and cooperation between the two fighting parties and the North Darfur government, we managed to facilitate the evacuation of 113 aid workers from different UN agencies and international NGOs from El Fasher to Chad,” the governor said. of North Darfur, Major General Nimir Abdulrahman, told The Washington Post in a text message.

Kareem Fahim in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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