June 24, 2024

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Sudan latest: Paramilitary forces demand ceasefire as death toll rises to at least 296

Sudan latest: Paramilitary forces demand ceasefire as death toll rises to at least 296

When Aseel Ibrahim and her family in southern Khartoum awoke to the sound of gunfire on Saturday morning, they found themselves caught up in the fighting that has wracked Sudan ever since.

She said that bullets went through the windows, as if they were coming from everywhere. Since the power went out shortly after the fighting began, Ms. Ibrahim and her family quickly ran out of food and water.

“We quickly realized that we would either die from gunshots or starve,” said Ms. Ibrahim, 20, who lives in Khartoum with her parents and brother. The house is close to a camp of the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group at war with the Sudanese army. “There was no other way but to evacuate.”

Like millions of residents stranded in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital at the heart of the conflict between two rival generals, Ms. Ibrahim and her family spent several days in their homes, unable to get out.

Street fighting and airstrikes have made it nearly impossible to move through Khartoum, trapping residents in their homes and students in classrooms or dorms.

Many of them struggle to access dwindling supplies of food and medicine.

German Moyehu, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sudan, said more than 450 people were stranded at the University of Khartoum. An unknown number of airline passengers and workers are trapped on the campus of the main international airport which has grounded commercial flights.

For those trying to flee the country, the massive damage to the airport has prompted countless families to make arduous journeys overland. But traveling by car is also risky, and a neighboring country, Chad, has closed borders.

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“But there is no safe land route,” said Rana, a 29-year-old pharmacist, who is expecting a baby this summer and was planning to travel to her native Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Rana asked to be identified by her first name only, fearing reprisals.

People could not be evacuated from Khartoum, and many parts of the city were left without water and electricity, said Mr. Muyehu of the Red Cross.

However, on Monday, Mrs. Ibrahim’s family was finally able to leave their home at noon, but only after her father ventured outside to speak with soldiers from the Sudanese army, who later let the family’s Land Cruiser pass.

Ms. Ibrahim, a freelance graphic designer and office manager at an information technology company, said she had temporarily moved to a relative’s house in the Kalakla suburb of Khartoum, where it was quiet.

“Some people live normally in some parts of Khartoum,” Ms. Ibrahim said. “The others live at war.”

In many neighborhoods, residents do not feel safe in their homes. Fighters identified as belonging to the RSF paramilitary group looted homes and held civilians at gunpoint in the street and Assaulting the ambassador of the European Union in his home. In the Rana area, near the airport, RSF fighters were, until Tuesday evening, controlling the street where she lives, she said.

Like millions of others, Rana is stuck in Khartoum, hiding behind a mattress. Neither side has observed a ceasefire that was supposed to go into effect on Tuesday night.

Mrs. Ibrahim said she did not know how long she might be away from home. She said she took some of her most prized possessions: a Hello Kitty series, Polaroid pictures, some books — including one by Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih — and her three cats.

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“We may come home sometime,” she said, “and we won’t find anything behind us.”