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UN warns of Sudan’s imminent collapse due to chaos

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After 10 days of brutal fighting between rival forces, foreign nations on Monday accelerated evacuations of their citizens from anarchy-torn Sudan, which the UN chief has warned is “on edge” in the wake of the riots.

As the army and paramilitaries clash again in Khartoum and across the country, terrified Sudanese have taken refuge in their homes from roaming fighters and looters amid severe shortages of water, food, medicine and fuel as well as power and internet outages.

The United States and many European, Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries launched emergency missions to bring their embassy staff and citizens residing in Sudan to land, air and sea.

At least 427 people have been killed and more than 3,700 injured, according to UN agencies, which report that Sudanese civilians are “fleeing from areas affected by the fighting, including Chad, Egypt and South Sudan”.

Bodies are full, bodies are strewn in the streets,” said Attia Abdallah, head of the Doctors’ Syndicate, which on Monday reported more casualties after locations in southern Khartoum came under “intense bombardment.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that violence in Sudan – already one of the world’s poorest countries, with a history of military coups – “could engulf the entire region and beyond”.

“We must do everything in our power to pull Sudan back from the brink,” Guterres said, calling again for a ceasefire.

Britain has requested an emergency Security Council meeting on Sudan, which is expected to take place on Tuesday, according to a diplomat.

A United Nations convoy carrying 700 people has completed a grueling 850-kilometre (530-mile) journey from the capital, where gunfire and explosions echoed in the streets, to Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast.

A UN statement said that the head of the UN mission, Volker Perthes, and other key staff “will remain in Sudan and continue to work towards resolving the current crisis.”

Unspeakable destruction

With Khartoum airport crippled after battles that left charred planes on the runways, many foreigners have been flown from smaller airstrips to countries like Djibouti and Jordan.

US special forces swooped in Chinook helicopters on Sunday to rescue diplomats and their families, while Britain launched a similar rescue mission.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said more than 1,000 EU citizens were transferred during a “long and intense weekend” that included airlifts by France, Germany and other countries.

China said on Monday that it had “safely evacuated” a first group of citizens and would try “by all means to protect the lives, property and safety of more than 1,500 Chinese citizens in Sudan”.

Norway’s ambassador, Endre Stiansen, who was evacuated, wrote on Twitter that the capital, with a population of five million, had suffered “more than a week of unspeakable devastation”.

He expressed “extreme grief” for the colleagues and friends who were left behind. “I fear for their future because weapons and narrow interests at the present time carry more weight than values ​​and words.”

“Most of the scenarios look bad,” he said, looking ahead to the fate of Sudan.

The International Crisis Group warned that the fighting risks “rapidly plunging the country into a full-scale war involving countless armed groups”.

“The war fell on all of us without warning,” one of the displaced, a Lebanese, told AFP upon his arrival by bus in Port Sudan.

“The situation in Khartoum is so sad…it’s devastated. I left with this T-shirt and these pajamas, everything I have with me after 17 years.”

Sudanese who can afford it are also fleeing Khartoum on crowded buses, the more than 900km drive north to Egypt.

Of the 800,000 South Sudanese refugees who previously fled their country’s civil war, some have chosen to return, with women and children crossing the border, the UN refugee agency said.

Anxiety and exhaustion

Across the capital, roaming army and paramilitary forces fought fierce street battles, smoke billowing often from bombed-out buildings and shops set ablaze.

An architect, Taghreed Abdeen, said life in war-torn Khartoum was filled with “anxiety and exhaustion”. “There was a missile strike in our neighborhood… It’s like no place is safe.”

The fight pits forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan against his deputy-turned-rival Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who leads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

The army overthrew Al-Bashir in April 2019 after mass protests.

The two generals seized power in a 2021 coup, but later fell out in a bitter power struggle, recently centered on the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said five aid workers were killed in the fighting.

Amid this widespread massacre, most internet services were disrupted, researcher Hamid Khalafallah said on Twitter, warning that “losing the internet in such circumstances is terrifying.”

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