Conflict-torn Sudan is on the brink of a “full-scale civil war” that could destabilise the entire region, the United Nations warned Sunday, after an air strike on a residential area killed around two dozen civilians.
The Ministry of Health reported “22 dead and a large number of wounded among the civilians” from the strike on Khartoum’s sister city Omdurman, in the district of Dar al-Salam, which means “House of Peace” in Arabic.
After nearly three months of war between Sudan’s rival generals, the air strike is the latest incident to provoke outrage.
Around 3,000 people have been killed in the conflict, survivors have reported a wave of sexual violence and witnesses have spoken of ethnically targeted killings. There has been widespread looting, and the UN warned of possible crimes against humanity in the Darfur region.
A video posted by the health ministry on Facebook showed apparently lifeless bodies after the airstrike, including several women. The narrator says that residents “counted 22 dead”.
The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), fighting the regular army, claimed that the strike killed 31.
Since the war began, paramilitaries have established bases in residential areas, and they have been accused of forcing civilians from their homes.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday condemned the air strike in Omdurman, which he said “reportedly killed at least 22 people” and wounded dozens, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement.
Guterres “remains deeply concerned that the ongoing war between the armed forces has pushed Sudan to the brink of a full-scale civil war, potentially destabilising the entire region”, Haq said.
He added: “There is an utter disregard for humanitarian and human rights law that is dangerous and disturbing.”
Nearly three million people have been uprooted by Sudan’s fighting, among them almost 700,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries according to the International Organisation for Migration.
The UN and African blocs have warned of an “ethnic dimension” to the conflict in the western region of Darfur, where the United States, Norway and Britain have blamed the RSF and allied militia for most of the widespread violations.
Haq expressed support for efforts by the African Union and East African bloc IGAD to end Sudan’s crisis.
On Monday leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan — IGAD members handling the Sudan file – are to meet in Addis Ababa.
Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo have been invited but neither side has confirmed they will attend.
Numerous ceasefires in the war have been announced and ignored.