Middle East

Sudan’s warring military factions to meet face-to-face for first time since conflict began

By Tatiana Arias, Eyad Kourdi, Heather Chen, Jorge Engels and Hafsa Khalil, CNN

The rival military factions fighting for control in Sudan are to hold face-to-face talks for the first time since fighting began last month.

The meeting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is aimed at ending the unrest and will take place in the Saudi city of Jeddah, according to Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Clashes began on April 15 and since then a series of truces have collapsed.

Saudi Arabia and the US have welcomed the start of the “pre-negotiation” discussions, to take place on Saturday, and called on both factions to “actively engage in the talks towards a ceasefire and end to the conflict.”

“(We) urge both parties to take in consideration the interests of the Sudanese nation and its people,” the two countries said in a press release on Friday.

Since the fighting started, hundreds have been killed and thousands more injured. According to data from UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) released on Friday, at least 190 children have been killed and 1,700 others injured in the fighting.

A tentative ceasefire is currently allowing foreign nations to evacuate their citizens – but locals face deteriorating conditions and shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel.

Hospitals targeted

Meanwhile, people on the ground in the country have told CNN that RSF fighters are trying to take control of “strategically located” hospitals that can be used as bases for the paramilitary force.

The RSF has already fully taken over Omdurman Maternity Hospital, a senior medical employee at a hospital in the state of Khartoum told CNN.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told CNN he had confirmed this by speaking with several staff members at the hospital.

He said the RSF was targeting hospitals because it needed cover from air strikes, “especially after their main military bases were completely destroyed by the army in the first few days of the war.”

“During the past days, they (have) controlled the maternity hospital in Omdurman. It is the biggest obstetrics and gynecology hospital in the whole country. (The RSF have parked) many of their vehicles inside the hospital yard. It will provide them with a very good cover … It will be impossible for the army (SAF) to strike it by air because the surrounding area is full of civilians, it is in the middle of three big neighborhoods.”

A second medical source, who works at a different hospital in Khartoum and who also wishes to remain anonymous, confirmed the RSF had taken over the Omdurman Maternity Hospital.

CNN has been unable to contact the hospital due to network connectivity issues in Sudan. However, it has obtained a widely circulated statement reportedly issued by the Omdurman Maternity Hospital administration that says the hospital was “attacked” at dawn on Thursday by RSF forces.

“They managed to break into the hospital and steal from the exchange counter about 20 million Sudanese pounds, including the deposits (of patients) according to the financial statements of the counter. They also kicked the workers out of the hospital so that the hospital became completely under their full control, and their vehicles entered the hospital (area),” the statement reads.

CNN has not independently verified these claims, nor has CNN been able to reach the paramilitary RSF for their comments.

Omdurman is Sudan’s most populated city, located less than hour northwest of the center of the capital and often referred to as Khartoum’s twin city.

A manager at another hospital in Khartoum voiced concerns over the spread of gangs throughout the two cities.

“These gangs are becoming more aggressive, robbing banks and markets, and destroying shops. They have already stolen a large amount of money from the Khartoum Bank. There is a complete absence of police, and the army is not able to secure many routes,” the manager said.

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