Moroccan citizens evacuated from Sudan arrive at the Casablanca Mohammed V Airport on April 26, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Thousands of foreigners and Sudanese, including 1,674 from 54 countries helped out by Saudi Arabia, continued to stream out on Wednesday of Khartoum and other battle zones amid a shaky ceasefire between the Sudanese army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

More than 10,000 people crossed into Egypt from Sudan in the past five days, authorities in Cairo said, adding to an estimated 20,000 who have entered Chad.

Others have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia, despite difficult conditions there.

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Nigeria on Wednesday started evacuating the first of around 3,500 of its nationals, mostly students, from Sudan to neighbouring Egyp

The UK has evacuated about 300 people, the Prime Minister’s Office said, as Rishi Sunak defended the pace of his government’s efforts to help some 2,000 citizens flee fighting in the country.

France has evacuated 538 people from Sudan by air, out of whom 209 were French and 329 nationals of 41 other countries, including 5 Indians.

Indian evacuees are received in Jeddah. Image Credit: ANI

The Indonesian foreign ministry said 560 nationals had been successfully evacuated from Sudan. The Indian Air Force flew in another batch of around 360 Indians from Jeddah Airport on a flight bound for New Delhi.

The evacuations come as Sudan’s army and the paramilitary force battled on the outskirts of the capital on Wednesday, eroding a truce in an 11-day conflict that civilian groups fear could revive the influence of those loyal to ousted leader Omar Al Bashir.

Fuelling those concerns, the army confirmed the transfer of ousted leader Omar Al Bashir from Khartoum’s Kober prison to a military hospital, along with at least five of his former officials, before hostilities started on April 15.

Over the weekend, thousands of inmates were freed outright from prison, including a former minister in Bashir’s government who, like him, is wanted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

At least one other of the group transferred to hospital is wanted by the ICC.

Ahmad Harun in a file picture. Image Credit: Reuters

Jail break causes concern

Ahmad Harun, a top Bashir aide who led the regime’s infamous counter-insurgency operations in Darfur in the mid-2000s, said late Tuesday that he and other regime members had escaped from Kober prison.

Members of Bashir’s regime, including the strongman himself, had been moved to a military hospital “due to their health conditions... and remain in the hospital under the guard of the judicial police”, the army said in a statement, without specifying when they had been moved.

It was the third reported jail break to have taken advantage of the fighting between forces loyal to army chief Abdul Fattah Al Burhan and those backing his deputy turned rival, RSF commander Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo.

“We remained in our detention at Kober, under the crossfire of this current battle, for nine days,” even after the jail was emptied of both guards and prisoners, Harun said in a recorded address to Sudanese television.

He said he and fellow jailed regime members “had now taken responsibility for our protection in our own hands” in another location.

Bashir was ousted in a popular uprising in 2019. Two years later, the army led by General Abdul Fattah Al Burhan, with support from the RSF, took over in a coup.

Wednesday’s renewed battles were mostly in Omdurman, one of Khartoum’s twin cities, where the army was fighting reinforcements to the RSF brought in from other regions of Sudan, a Reuters reporter said.

The army and the RSF agreed to a three-day truce, due to end late on Thursday, after diplomatic pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia. The army has accused its rivals of using the lull to replenish supplies of men and weapons.

Saudi Navy personnel assist a civilian being evacuated by Saudi Arabia from Sudan, at Jeddah Sea Port, on April 26, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

Thanks to the ceasefire, fighting between army soldiers the RSF remained more subdued in the centre of Khartoum.

White House confirms death of second American

With the future of any truce uncertain, many took the opportunity to join the tens of thousands who have streamed out of the region of the capital in recent days, trying to get out of the crossfire between the forces of Sudan’s two top generals.

“It’s a mess — long lines of elderly people, patients, women and children waiting in miserable conditions,” said Moaz Al Ser, a Sudanese teacher who arrived along with his wife and three children at the border a day earlier. “

Authorities on both sides don’t have the capacity to handle such a growing number of arrivals.”

The UN’s representative in Sudan, Volker Perthes, said that while the truce announced late Monday appeared to be holding in some locations, there is continued fighting and movement of troops, with clashes occurring around the presidential palace, the international airport and military bases in Khartoum.

Not ready for talks

There are also reports of looting and attempted sexual assaults, and signs that ethnic militias are arming themselves to join the fight, he told the Security Council on Tuesday.

But he said that neither party showed readiness to "seriously negotiate, suggesting that both think that securing a military victory over the other is possible".

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has said it is gearing up for potentially tens of thousands of Sudanese and others to flee into South Sudan. Tens of thousands of Khartoum residents have also fled to provinces neighboring Khartoum or even into already existing displacement and refugee camps within Sudan that house victims of past conflicts in the country and its neighbors.

At least 459 people, including civilians and fighters, have been killed, and over 4,000 wounded since fighting began, the UN health agency said, citing Sudan’s Health Ministry. The Doctors’ Syndicate which which tracks civilian casualties, said at least 295 civilians were killed and 1,790 others injured.

The White House said on Wednesday that a second American had died in Sudan on Tuesday amid violence between warring parties.

John Kirby, White House national security spokesperson, told reporters the violence had gone significantly down there and that the United States was actively facilitating the departure of a small number of Americans seeking to leave Sudan.

WHO expects more deaths due to outbreaks

The World Health Organization (WHO) expects more deaths to occur in Sudan due to outbreaks of disease and a lack of essential services amid intense fighting, its director general said on Wednesday.

“On top of the number of deaths and injuries caused by the conflict itself, the WHO expects there will be many more deaths due to outbreaks, lack of access to food and water and disruptions to essential health services, including immunization,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Tedros said only 16 per cent of health facilities were functioning in the Sudanese capital.