US announces sanctions after Sudan truce violations
Khartoum: The United States said on Thursday it was imposing economic sanctions and visa restrictions against actors “perpetuating the violence” in Sudan as clashes raged on in the capital Khartoum.
Saudi Arabia and the United States have been monitoring a ceasefire deal meant to run until Saturday evening that had raised hopes of an end to a war between Sudan’s army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The truce brought some reduction in fighting and gave space for limited humanitarian relief, but clashes and air strikes have continued largely uninterrupted since the outbreak of the conflict on April 15.
Food and assets were being looted in El Obeid, a regional hub to the southwest of Khartoum, the World Food Programme said.
“Food for 4.4 million people is at stake,” agency chief Cindy McCain said.
“Despite a ceasefire agreement, senseless violence has continued across the country - hindering the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and hurting those who need it most,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
The US was imposing economic sanctions and visa restrictions as part of efforts to prevent a protracted conflict, the statement said, without giving details on which actors the measures targeted.
The conflict has pushed Sudan into a humanitarian crisis and turned one of Africa’s greatest cities - the three-part capital of Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri on the confluence on the Blue and White Niles - into a war zone.
Calling the ceasefire “incredibly imperfect and incredibly fragile,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Oslo the US was “looking at steps that we can take to make clear our views on any leaders who are moving Sudan in the wrong direction.” On Wednesday, the army announced it was pulling out of talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah where the ceasefire deal was struck and where mediators had been trying to bolster and prolong the truce.
Saudi Arabia and the US have listed serious violations of the ceasefire by both sides.
Residents reported an increase in fighting early on Thursday in parts of the capital and said heavy artillery fire could be heard in northern Omdurman and intermittent firing in southern Bahri.
“We are being terrorized by the sounds of heavy artillery around us. The house has been shaking,” 49-year-old Nadir Ahmed said in the Thawra neighbourhood of Omdurman. “Where is this ceasefire we hear about?”
Clashes also continued near a market in southern Khartoum, where at least 19 people were killed and 106 wounded on Wednesday, according to a member of a local neighbourhood committee.
He said that the number of dead and injured was higher than official tallies as several people had been treated or buried at home by relatives wary of venturing to hospital.
More than 1.2 million people have been displaced inside Sudan, and an additional 400,000 have fled across borders - including 100,000 to neighbouring Chad, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday.
At least 730 have been killed according to official counts dating to last month, but the real numbers are likely far higher.
Outside Khartoum, clashes have flared in major cities in the western region of Darfur. A regional rights group said at least 50 people have been killed in the last week in the westernmost city of El Geneina which has already seen hundreds killed in militia attacks and has been cut off from communications for more than 10 days.
In the city of Zalingei, it said that city’s hospital and university were looted and people were being killed “randomly”.
The calm Red Sea coast city Port Sudan has served as a base for the United Nations, aid groups, and diplomats as well as some government officials.
However, a curfew was declared in the city earlier this week as the army warned of “sleeper cells” sneaking into the city.
Residents say buses have been stopped from entering the city, which is a key evacuation point.
“The army is carrying out strict security procedures in the city, in particular at night,” resident Salah Mohamed said.
Leaders of the army and RSF, which emerged from militias the government used to quell an earlier uprising in Darfur, held top positions on Sudan’s ruling council after former President Omar Al Bashir, also an army commander, was toppled in 2019.
After Bashir was ousted in a popular uprising, the army with RSF leaders staged a coup in 2021 before they were due to hand leadership to civilians. They then fell out over the chain of command and restructuring of the RSF under the planned transition to civilian rule.