Displaced families flee again as Sudan war spreads

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Fighting between the Sudanese army and paramilitaries on the outskirts of Wad Madani sent already displaced families fleeing again Friday, an AFP correspondent reported, as a civil war entered its ninth month.

The army blocked civilians from entering the city of Wad Madani -- 180 kilometers (110 miles) south of the capital Khartoum -- which had quickly become a safe haven when war broke out between the Sudanese armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on April 15.

An AFP correspondent saw fighter jets overhead and clouds of black smoke rising as blasts were heard from the city’s northern outskirts.

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Wad Madani is the capital of Al Jazira state, where half a million displaced people have sought refuge, according to United Nations figures.

Initially spared from the war, the agricultural state has in recent months seen fighters encroach on the region, mobilizing troops and setting up checkpoints along the line of villages between Khartoum and Wad Madani.

The war between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy, commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has claimed more than 12,190 lives, according to a conservative estimate by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Over 5.4 million people are internally displaced, according to the UN, in addition to nearly 1.5 million who have fled across borders.

In a bleak reminder of the first days of the war in Khartoum, shops and businesses were quickly boarded shut Friday as families took to the streets “with anything they could carry,” AFP’s correspondent said, struggling to find transportation south.

In a statement, the Rapid Support Forces sought to “assure dear citizens” in Al Jazira and Wad Madani that “the goal of our forces is to destroy the strongholds” of the army.

Both sides have been accused of indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, as well as targeting, looting and harassing civilians.

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