Sudan says 6 soldiers killed in Ethiopia border fighting

Sudanese soldiers were killed in an attack by Ethiopian forces near the border. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 November 2021

Sudan says 6 soldiers killed in Ethiopia border fighting

CAIRO: Sudan’s armed forces said on Sunday that six of its forces were killed in fighting in the country’s border region with Ethiopia.
It came a day after the military claimed that Ethiopian military and militia forces attacked the border area of Al-Fashaqa, a disputed agricultural area that straddles the two countries.
The fighting is the latest turbulence for Sudan, after generals deposed the country’s transitional civilian government in late October and arrested more than a hundred officials.
Mass protests followed the coup, and the generals eventually reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under military oversight amid international pressure.
However, many of the country’s pro-democratic forces continue to call for the military to release its grip on power. Sudan had been struggling with its transition to a democratic government since the military overthrow of former President Omar Bashir in 2019, following a mass uprising against three decades of his rule.

BACKGROUND

Sudan’s decades-old dispute with Ethiopia centers on large swaths of farming land Sudan says are within its borders, according an agreement that demarcated the line between the two nations in the early 1900s.

The decades-old dispute with Ethiopia centers on large swaths of farming land Sudan says are within its borders, according an agreement that demarcated the line between the two nations in the early 1900s.




Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok

The two nations have held rounds of talks, most recently in Khartoum last December, to settle the disagreement, but haven’t made progress.
Matters escalated late last year after Sudan deployed troops to Al-Fashaqa, driving out Ethiopian farmers and militias in the area. At least 84 Sudanese troops were killed in clashes with Ethiopian forces and militias from November of last year till August, according to the military.
There was no immediate comment from Ethiopian authorities on Sudanese claims of the attack over the weekend.
But Ethiopian officials have in the past accused Sudan of taking advantage of the conflict which erupted a year ago between the central government and the northern Tigray region.
On Thursday, they tightly restricted reporting on the country’s war.
Sudan has also seen tribal violence in recent days in its south, sparking fears of a return to all-out conflict there.
On Thursday, the UN’s office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs said that at least 43 people had been killed in inter-communal violence in Darfur and roughly 4,300 had fled their homes because of it.
Bashir had waged a scorched-earth counterinsurgency in Darfur against ethnic minority rebels who blamed the government for economic and political marginalization.
In January, a resurgence in tribal violence killed 470 people in Darfur, in one of the worst episodes since the vicious war of the 2000s there.
Meanwhile, in Khartoum, the country’s recently reinstated prime minister announced on Saturday the replacements for top positions in the country’s police forces, according to Sudan’s state news agency.
The firings came after security forces were blamed for the killing of at least 40 protesters since the coup last month.


Sudan frees medics held in crackdown on anti-coup protests

Updated 5 sec ago

Sudan frees medics held in crackdown on anti-coup protests

KHARTOUM: Sudan on Tuesday released nine medics from Doctors Without Borders, the aid group said, a day after they were arrested during a broadening crackdown on anti-coup protests.
“During the evening of 24 January, nine MSF staff members were detained by the Sudanese authorities in the capital Khartoum,” the group said in a statement, using its French acronym.
They were detained as they were making their way back to their office from a hospital, said the organization.
“MSF’s emergency medical teams are working in Khartoum to support the health authorities with their response to injuries from ongoing protests and Covid-19,” the statement said.
The team was released on Tuesday morning, it added.
Among those arrested were staff members from both Sudan and other countries, according to the pro-democracy Central Committee of Sudan Doctors.
Sudan has been rocked by protests calling for civilian rule since an October 25 military coup led by general Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
The military takeover derailed a power-sharing transition between the military and civilians that had been painstakingly negotiated after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir.
The crackdown on anti-coup demonstrations has left at least 76 people dead and hundreds wounded, according to the doctors’ committee.
Hundreds of people have also been rounded up in the crackdown, including pro-democracy activists.
On Saturday, a leading women’s rights campaigner, Amira Othman, was arrested following a raid on her home in Khartoum, according to a statement by the “No to Women’s Oppression” initiative which she leads.
Other activists from the “resistance committees,” informal groups which have been instrumental in organizing the anti-coup protests, were also detained late Sunday, according to members who requested anonymity because they feared reprisals.
The United States has slammed the protest crackdown.
On Tuesday, the US Bureau of African Affairs said Sudan’s military leaders had committed to dialogue to resolve the crisis in the country during a visit last week by senior US diplomats to Khartoum.
“Yet their actions — more violence against protesters, detention of civil society activists — tell a different story, and will have consequences,” the bureau said on Twitter.
Sudan is one of the world’s poorest countries and has seen vital foreign aid cut as part of the international community’s condemnation of the coup.

Israeli expert panel advises fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for adults

Updated 25 January 2022

Israeli expert panel advises fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for adults

  • Israel is already offering a second booster to everyone over the age of 60 and those at high risk
  • Israel has been on the leading edge of vaccine distribution since they were approved by health authorities in late 2020

JERUSALEM: An expert panel on Tuesday advised the Israeli government to begin offering a fourth vaccine dose to everyone over the age of 18, citing research showing it helps prevent COVID-19 infection and severe illness.
The advisory committee said research shows a fourth dose provides three to five times the level of protection against serious disease and double the protection against infection compared to three doses. The Health Ministry’s director must approve the recommendation.
Israel is already offering a second booster to everyone over the age of 60 and those at high risk as it struggles to contain a wave of infections fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant. It began offering third doses to the general population last summer.
Figures from Israel’s Health Ministry show there are currently some 580,000 active patients, with just 845 listed as seriously ill. Nearly half the population has received a third dose and more than 600,000 have gotten a fourth. Israel has reported 8,487 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Israel has been on the leading edge of vaccine distribution since they were approved by health authorities in late 2020. It has gathered extensive data that is informing other countries’ responses to the pandemic.


Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

Updated 24 January 2022

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

CAIRO: Egypt approved Merck & Co’s COVID-19 pill Molnupiravir for emergency use, the country’s drug authority said on Monday, adding that the pill would be locally produced.
The drug will initially be manufactured by five local companies, to be joined later by several other firms, the Egyptian Drug Authority said in a statement.


Three killed as Sudanese security forces crack down on protest

Updated 25 January 2022

Three killed as Sudanese security forces crack down on protest

  • Some 76 civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in crackdowns on the protests

KHARTOUM: Three demonstrators were killed on Monday when Sudanese security forces fired live rounds and teargas during protests against military rule that attracted tens of thousands of people across the country, medics said.
Such protests, along with barricades throughout the capital and a general strike last week, have continued since the military took power on Oct. 25, ending a partnership with civilian political parties since the removal of Omar Bashir as Sudan’s ruler in 2019.
Some 76 civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in crackdowns on the protests, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is aligned with the protest movement, mainly by gunshots and teargas canisters.
“Our people are protesting peacefully and using all forms of nonviolent resistance towards a free, democratic and just country, only to be confronted by the military with the worst crimes,” the doctors’ group said.
Two protesters were killed in a protest in Khartoum, one shot in the chest and the other in the head, the group said. Other protesters were injured in the capital Khartoum and the city of Omdurman, they said.
Police could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sudan’s military leaders have said the right to peaceful protest is protected. The Sovereign Council, Sudan’s highest authority, run by the military, received a briefing on the work of a committee investigating protester deaths, it said in a statement.
The violence has deepened the deadlock between pro-democracy groups and the military leadership.
A Reuters witness saw security forces using teargas and stun grenades as protesters stood 1.2 km (0.75 miles) from the presidential palace.
In the cities of Bahri and Omdurman, Reuters witnesses saw a heavy security presence and teargas fired on a main road.
The protests were called by neighbourhood resistance committees, which advocate a stance of “no legitimacy, no negotiation, no partnership” towards the military.
One committee reported the arrest of at least four members. Another said its headquarters were raided.
Large protests were held in the city of Madani, where witnesses said protesters marched towards the house of a protester killed on Friday before heading to the state government building.
The third protester was killed there, with gunshots to the head and shoulder, the doctors’ committee said.
Social media users shared images of other protests in the cities of El-Fasher, Shendi, and Elobeid.
Last week, the United States condemned the use of force against protesters, saying it would consider additional measures to hold perpetrators of violence accountable.
Military leader Abdelfattah al-Burhan has appointed deputy ministers to a caretaker government which passed this year’s budget.
On Monday, Abdelghani Alnaeem, former deputy foreign minister under Bashir, confirmed he and more than 100 other diplomats and administrators fired as part of an anti-corruption task force had been reinstated by a judge. “This is a positive step,” he said.
The Sovereign Council on Monday formed a committee to look into appeals of decisions by the taskforce, which was a key point of tension between the military and civilian politicians.


Syria Kurdish forces close in on Daesh-controlled prison wing

Updated 24 January 2022

Syria Kurdish forces close in on Daesh-controlled prison wing

  • Shami said SDF forces advanced after about 300 Daesh militants surrendered early Monday
  • Over a dozen Kurdish fighters and more than 100 militants have been killed in clashes since the assault began

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters deployed inside a prison in northeast Syria on Monday, closing in on the facility’s last wing controlled by militants for days, the force and a war monitor said. The raid follows the surrender of hundreds of Daesh fighters and aims to end one of the most brazen attacks by the group in years.
Forces took over buildings near the prison’s northern wing, said Farhad Shami, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. That’s where dozens of Daesh militants have been holed up since Thursday.
Shami said SDF forces advanced after about 300 Daesh militants surrendered early Monday.
Over a dozen Kurdish fighters and more than 100 militants have been killed in clashes since the assault began, according to the Kurdish-led force. The number of fugitives remain unclear.
Journalists at the scene said Kurdish officials asked them to step away from the vicinity of the prison earlier Monday, apparently in anticipation of a military operation.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a buildup of Kurdish forces backed by US armored vehicles around the prison.
Witnesses in the city of Hassakeh, where the prison is located and is under a tight security cordon, said buses arrived at the prison apparently to transport militants who had turned themselves in to another location. Coalition helicopters were hovering overhead, a resident said.
Late on Sunday, the Kurdish-led administration announced a weeklong curfew in Hassakeh starting Monday. Hundreds of city residents have fled the fighting.
The standoff followed a bold assault on Gweiran Prison on Thursday. Militants rammed vehicles through its walls, enabling a number of imprisoned fighters to escape and take hostages. Clashes have continued since then, including with militants holed up in adjacent residential areas. The US-led coalition carried out a number of strikes on suspected militants who had taken control of the prison’s northern wing.
On Sunday, Shami said the militants were using hundreds of minors detained in the prison as human shields. More than 3,000 suspected Daesh militants, including over 600 minors, are held in Gweiran, the largest of a dozen detention facilities in Syria housing militants.
Save the Children and Human Rights Watch said Monday that audio testimony they received suggests that children were among the dead and wounded.
“Reports that children have been killed or injured are tragic and outrageous,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria response director, calling for the immediate evacuation of children.
Many of the boys caught in the fighting have been held in Gweiran for almost three years, including about 300 who are from Iraq and other countries, according to Human Rights Watch.
Letta Tayler, associate crisis and conflict director at HRW, said one foreign boy in an audio message described “a lot of people dead, a lot of people injured.” Tayler said the boy was speaking from the kitchen where he described coming under fire.
It was not clear if the boys, who are normally held in separate wings, were brought to the kitchen after the assault began. Earlier in the assault, SDF officials said the group had lost contact with kitchen staff, suggesting they were among hostages taken by Daesh.
“While the responsibility for this siege rests squarely with (IS), this does not absolve the US-led coalition and the local authorities of their responsibility to take all feasible steps to protect these prisoners from harm, including hundreds of boys trapped inside who have never been charged with any crime,” Tayler said.
Khush, of Save the Children, called for foreign children to be repatriated with their families. “The international community cannot have the blood of any of these children on their hands,” she said.
Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Observatory, said scores of minors, some as young as 15, had been moved to another prison facility to the south soon after the assault began.
The SDF said about 27 of its fighters were killed in the assault. Abdurrahman put the figure at 52, adding that about 100 militants were killed. The SDF said about 100 escaped and were arrested by the total number of fugitive is still not clear.
Dozen of facilities in northeastern Syria run by the SDF house thousands of suspected Daesh militants, including foreigners, since the defeat of the extremists in 2019. The Kurdish-led administration has said the facilities are a strain on its resources and had repeatedly appealed for countries to repatriate their nationals.
Thousands of Daesh family members and supporters are also held in displacement camps in what amounts to detention facilities mostly for women and children.