Sudan’s Bashir and allies break out of prison, Khartoum fighting rages

  • Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide
  • Ex-Minister Convicted of War Crimes Released from Jail
  • Before April 15, Bashir and his associates were transferred to the hospital – Army
  • A mass prison break and lawlessness plague the city

DUBAI, April 26 (Reuters) – Gunfire and explosions reverberated through the western suburbs of Sudan’s capital on Wednesday, as a ceasefire crumbled amid crumbling basic services, dwindling food supplies and the opening of a jail to evict associates of a jailed former autocrat.

The military said former President Omar al-Bashir had been transferred to a military hospital before hostilities began on April 15, as clashes between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) showed no signs of abating.

It said Bashir had been transferred from prison along with 30 former members of his regime, including Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussein, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes for atrocities during the conflict in the Darfur region along with the former president.

Bashir’s whereabouts have been called into question after Ali Haroon, a former minister in his government, announced on Tuesday that he had escaped from Kobar prison in Khartoum along with other former officials. Haroon is wanted by the ICC on dozens of war crimes charges.

Along with senior and lower-level officials of the Bashir regime that was toppled four years ago, thousands of criminals, including some sentenced to death, were held in vast prisons.

Sudanese authorities and the RSF have traded accusations over the release of prisoners, with paramilitary gunmen entering five prisons over the weekend, killing several guards and opening the gates, police said.

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RSF blamed the authorities for letting Haroon and others out.

The release of convicted criminals added to the growing sense of lawlessness in Khartoum, where residents reported worsening insecurity and widespread looting and gangs roaming the streets.

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

Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup and was ousted in a popular uprising in 2019. Two years later, the RSF-backed army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized power in a coup.

The current conflict between the military and RSF leader, General Mohamed Hamdan Tagalo, was sparked in part by disagreements over how quickly to integrate the RSF into the military under a planned transition to civilian rule.

The ICC in The Hague has accused Bashir of genocide, and Haroun of organizing militias to attack civilians in Darfur in 2003 and 2004. The ICC declined to comment on the transfer of Bashir, Haroon and Hussain from prison.

Druze Reinforcements

The renewed fighting was in Omdurman, one of Khartoum’s twin cities, where the army was fighting reinforcements for the RSF brought in from other parts of Sudan, a Reuters reporter said.

A projectile hit Al-Rumi Medical Center in Omdurman on Tuesday and exploded inside, injuring 13 people, a hospital official said.

The army accused the RSF of using the three-day ceasefire to reinforce itself with men and weapons. The ceasefire was supposed to end on Thursday evening.

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Thanks to the ceasefire, the RSF in the center of Khartoum has been largely subdued in inter-military fighting.

The fighting has turned residential areas into battlegrounds. Airstrikes and artillery have killed at least 459 people, wounded more than 4,000, destroyed hospitals and limited food supplies in a country where a third of its 46 million people rely on humanitarian aid.

Volker Berthes, the UN’s special envoy for Sudan, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that a ceasefire “seems to be working in some areas so far”.

But neither side is “ready to negotiate seriously, both think it is possible to achieve military victory over the other,” he said.

Foreign powers have expelled thousands of diplomats and private citizens in recent days, including 1,674 from 54 countries aided by Saudi Arabia.

Sudanese are leaving en masse along with citizens of neighboring countries. More than 10,000 people have entered Egypt from Sudan in the past five days, officials in Cairo said, and another 20,000 have crossed into Chad. Others fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia, despite difficult conditions.

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

More flights are expected after Wednesday to evacuate the remaining Turkish nationals from Sudan to Ethiopia.

Reporting by Mehmet Emin Caliskan, Omer Berberoglu, Deniz Uyar in Istanbul and Michelle Nichols in New York and Tala Ramadan in Dubai; By Michael Georgie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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