Red Cross brokers release of 125 Sudan army soldiers

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it has facilitated the release of 125 Sudanese army soldiers held captive by the country’s rival paramilitary force.

The soldiers walked free on Wednesday, the ICRC said, as the violent conflict between the army, led by General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, entered its 11th week.

Fighting between the rival forces broke out on April 15 and has killed more than 3000 people, the country’s health ministry said.

More than 2.5 million people have been displaced, according to the latest United Nations figures.

The freed men – 44 of who were wounded – were transported from the capital, Khartoum, to the city of Wad Madani, 161 kilometres to the south, the ICRC said in a statement.

It remains unclear where the 125 men were being held.

“This positive step means that families will be celebrating Eid-al Adha with their loved ones,” the ICRC’s head of delegation in Sudan Jean Christophe Sandoz said.

The RSF claims to have detained hundreds of army soldiers since the fighting broke out.

Interviews with army detainees feature prominently on the paramilitary’s social media, with soldiers – who often appear bruised and frightened – telling their families they are being treated well by their captors.

Earlier this week, both generals separately announced a ceasefire to mark the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which fell on Wednesday.

Residents from East Khartoum said light gunfire and intermittent explosions could be heard throughout the truce.

Since the conflict broke out there have been at least nine ceasefires but all have foundered.

The UN and other rights groups have continually criticised both forces for harming civilians and violating international law.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the UN’s mission to the country condemned the army for bombing residential areas while accusing RSF of ethnically targeted violence in the western Darfur region and raping civilians.

Darfur, along with Khartoum, has been the violent epicentre of the ongoing conflict.

In West Darfur province, the RSF and Arab militias have been reportedly targeting non-Arab tribes, local rights groups and the UN said.

In a report issued last week by the Dar Masalit sultanate, the leader of the African Masalit ethnic community accused Arab militias, backed by the RSF, of “committing genocide against African civilians”.

More than 5000 people have been killed in the province’s capital, Genena, he said.

The ICRC rescued 297 children from an orphanage in the capital in early June.

The operation came after 71 children had died from hunger and illness in the facility since mid-April.


Topics: Sudan
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