US urges Sudan warring sides to halt advance on aid hub

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The latest clashes between Sudan’s army and paramilitary forces pose dire threats to civilians and relief efforts, the United States warned Saturday as it urged fighters to avoid an aid hub sheltering tens of thousands of people.

Nearly half a million displaced people have sought refuge in Sudan’s Al-Jazirah state, more than 86,000 of them in its capital Wad Madani, according to United Nations figures.

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But fighting between Sudanese armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) overran the city on Friday, leading the UN humanitarian agency to suspend aid work in the state “until further notice.”

“Wad Madani has become a safe haven for displaced civilians and is an important hub for international humanitarian relief efforts. A continued RSF advance risks mass civilian casualties and significant disruption of humanitarian assistance efforts,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

“We urge the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan to cease their advance in Gezira State immediately and to refrain from attacking Wad Madani,” Miller said.

The war which started in April between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy, RSF 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, while about 1.3 million have fled abroad, according to UN figures.

RSF fighters had been advancing towards Wad Madani for weeks, down the highway from Khartoum 110 miles (180 kilometers) to the north.

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