Fighting rages in Khartoum, but envoy sees sides more open to talks

  • U.N. envoy says sides more open to talks
  • Air strikes and artillery heard in Khartoum
  • Ex-PM sees ‘nightmare’ for world if conflict not stopped

KHARTOUM, April 29 (Reuters) – Air strikes and artillery rocked Khartoum on Saturday as Sudan entered a third week of fighting between rival military forces despite a ceasefire, prompting more civilians to flee and renewed warnings of wider instability if the war is not stopped.

By Saturday evening, heavy clashes could be heard near downtown Khartoum, close to the army headquarters and the presidential palace.

In one of the latest efforts by foreign governments to evacuate their citizens and others, a U.S.-government organised convoy arrived at the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on Saturday, evacuating U.S. citizens, local staff and others, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

The U.S. government will help evacuees travel on to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Miller added. He did not say how many Americans remained in the country.

A U.N. envoy earlier offered a possible glimmer of hope for an end to the fighting, saying the warring sides that have so far shown no sign of compromise were now more open to negotiations – though no date had been set.

Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands wounded since April 15 when a long-simmering power struggle between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted into conflict.

The fighting has pitched Sudan towards a civil war, derailing an internationally-backed transition aimed at establishing a democratic government and sending tens of thousands of people fleeing into neighbouring countries.

“I’m afraid that one day I’m asleep and I wake up to a bomb falling on my house,” said a man named Khalid, speaking to Reuters from Khartoum where he has stayed because his elderly grandmother and ill sister would suffer on the long and costly trip out.

“That’s my deepest fear right now. That’s all that I think of. That’s why I can’t sleep at night.”

The sides have continued to battle it out during a series of ceasefires mediated by foreign powers, notably the United States. The latest 72-hour truce expires at midnight on Sunday.

The RSF said in a statement on Saturday it had shot down an army warplane in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, and accused the army of violating the ceasefire with an attack there. The army did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters could not independently verify the RSF report.

The army has previously blamed the RSF for violations and said on Saturday its forces were continuing to work to end “the rebellion”.

For periods on Saturday, violence was less intense in the capital area than in recent days, residents said.

Residents also reported relative calm in the city of El Geneina in the western Darfur region after days of fighting there. The Darfur Bar Association said the death toll had reached 200, and thousands had been wounded.

The prospects of negotiations between the army and paramilitary have so far…

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