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Sudan activists say about 25 people drown fleeing fighting

By AFP - Jul 05,2024 - Last updated at Jul 05,2024

People fleeing the town of Singa, the capital of Sudan's southeastern Sennar state, rest in a makeshift camp after arriving in Gedaref in the east of the war-torn country on Tuesday (AFP photo)

PORT SUDAN, Sudan — Pro-democracy activists in Sudan on Thursday said around 25 people drowned in the Nile while trying to flee fighting between the Sudanese army and paramilitary forces in the southeast.

"Around 25 citizens, most of them women and children, have died in a boat sinking" while crossing the Blue Nile river in the south-eastern state of Sennar, a local resistance committee said in a statement.

The committee is one of hundreds across Sudan that used to organise pro-democracy protests and have coordinated frontline aid since the war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began last year.

"Entire families perished" in the accident, they said, while fleeing the RSF's recent advance through Sennar.

On Saturday, the RSF announced they had captured a military base in Sinja, the capital of Sennar state, where over half-a-million people had sought shelter from the war.

Witnesses also reported the RSF sweeping through neighbouring villages, pushing residents to flee in small wooden boats across the Nile.

At least 55,000 people fled Sinja within a three-day period, the United Nations said on Monday.

Local authorities in neighbouring Gedaref state estimated on Thursday that some 120,000 displaced people had arrived this week. The state’s health minister Ahmed al-Amin Adam said 90,000 had been officially registered.

Over 10 million people are currently displaced across Sudan, in what the UN calls the world’s worst displacement crisis.

Sudan has been gripped by war since April 2023, when fighting erupted between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and the RSF led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

The conflict in the country of 48 million has killed tens of thousands, with some estimates putting the death toll as high as 150,000, according to the United States envoy to Sudan, Tom Perriello.

It has also torn the country apart into competing zones of control. The RSF holds much of the capital and the agricultural heartland to its south, nearly all of Darfur, and swathes of the southern Kordofan states.

In El Fasher in North Darfur — the only state capital in the Darfur region that the RSF has not captured — a paramilitary attack on a market on Wednesday “killed 15 civilians and injured 29 others,” health ministry official Ibrahim Khater told AFP Thursday.

Since fighting in the city began in early May, at least 278 people have been killed, according to French charity Doctors without Borders (MSF).

But the real toll is likely much higher, with most of those wounded unable to reach health facilities amid an ongoing siege and heavy street battles.

The hospitals in El Fasher — nearly all of which have shut down — have themselves been attacked at least nine times since May, according to MSF.

Both sides have been accused of war crimes, including targeting civilian infrastructure and indiscriminately shelling homes, markets and hospitals.

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