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Aircraft have been damaged at Khartoum International Airport Planet Labs PBC/PA Images

Blinken calls for ceasefire as US embassy convoy comes under fire in Sudan

An Irish diplomat was also injured yesterday when he was attacked at his home in Sudan.

WASHINGTON’S TOP DIPLOMAT has said a US embassy convoy came under fire in Sudan and denounced “indiscriminate military operations” as the country’s armed forces and a powerful rival unleashed heavy weapons in urban areas for a fourth day.

The convoy of clearly marked embassy vehicles was attacked yesterday, and preliminary reports linked the attackers to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the paramilitary group battling Sudan’s military, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters.

Everyone in the convoy is was safe, Blinken said.

The Sudanese military said the attack took place in Sudan’s restive Darfur region.

The convoy attack, along with earlier assaults on aid workers and the EU envoy’s residence in the capital Khartoum, signalled a further descent into chaos since the battle by two rival generals for control of Africa’s third-largest country erupted over the weekend.

More than 185 people have been killed and more than 1,800 wounded, according to UN figures.

The death toll could be much higher because there are many bodies in the streets in Khartoum, especially around the city centre, that no one can reach because of the clashes.

The two sides have been using tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons in densely populated areas.

Last night, fighter jets swooped overhead and anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies as darkness fell.

Fighting resumed early today around each side’s main bases and at strategic government buildings — all of which are in residential areas.

The turmoil comes just days before Sudanese were to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.

Satellite images from Planet Labs PBC showed the extent of the destruction from days of fighting.

At Khartoum International Airport, which also has a military side, the AP counted some 20 damaged aircraft in an image taken early on Monday afternoon.

Some had been completely destroyed, with one still belching smoke.

At the El Obeid and Merowe air bases, north and south of Khartoum, several fighter jets were among the destroyed aircraft.

Top diplomats have urged the two rival generals — armed forces chief General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and RSF leader General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo — to halt fighting.

The Sudanese military said today that more troops would join the battle and that it would “widen the scope of its operations” against the RSF.

The State Department said that Blinken spoke by phone separately with the two generals.

“I made very clear (in my calls) that any attacks or threats or dangers posed to our diplomats were totally unacceptable,” Blinken told reporters at the Group of Seven wealthy nations meeting in Japan today.

He appealed for an immediate 24-hour ceasefire as a foundation for a longer truce and a return to negotiations.

“Indiscriminate military operations have resulted in significant deaths and injuries, recklessly endangering civilians, diplomats, including US personnel, and humanitarian personnel,” he said.

Burhan and Dagalo, former allies who jointly orchestrated an October 2021 coup, have dug in, demanding the other’s surrender.

The violence has raised the spectre of civil war just as Sudanese were trying to revive the drive for a democratic, civilian government after decades of military rule.

The Sudanese military blamed the RSF, which grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militias in Sudan’s Darfur region, for the attack on the US convoy and an earlier assault on the home of the EU envoy in Khartoum.

The military said the convoy was attacked in al-Fasher, the capital city of North Darfur province.

Irish diplomat 

Both Foreign Affairs Minister Tánaiste Micheál Martin and EU diplomatic head Josep Borrell yesterday confirmed that Aidan O’Hara, the EU’s ambassador to Sudan suffered injuries after being attacked at his home in Khartoum. 

“A few hours ago, the EU Ambassador in Sudan was assaulted in his own residency,” Borrell wrote on Twitter, without detailing any injuries to the envoy.

“Security of diplomatic premises and staff is a primary responsibility of Sudanese authorities and an obligation under international law,” he added.

The Tánaiste said O’Hara was “not seriously hurt” but that the assault was “a gross violation of obligations to protect diplomats under the Vienna Convention”.

“Aidan is an outstanding Irish and European diplomat who is serving the EU under the most difficult circumstances,” Martin said.

“We thank him for his service and call for an urgent cessation of violence in Sudan, and resumption of dialogue.”

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