Sunday, July 14, 2024

Rotting corpses litter the streets of Khartoum…and warnings of the worst


It was a funeral that no one had imagined. The body of Abbas’s friend was hurriedly dumped in an unmarked grave dug in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in the early hours of the morning.

According to Awwad al-Zubayr, a neighbor of the deceased, a limited number of family members and neighbors were able to attend the burial, which was distributed throughout the cemetery to warn of the impending fire.

Fortunately, no one came to distract the mourners.

Almost four months after violent clashes erupted between the Sudanese army and Rapid Support Forces, funerals have become almost impossible. Amid the chaos, residents and local medical teams say bodies are lying in the streets as they begin to decompose, surrounded by fighting that seems to have no end in sight.

“Given the circumstances, if you ask me where his body was buried, I cannot answer,” says Zubair.

There is limited data on the number of casualties from the conflict in Sudan, and Health Minister Haitham Mohamed Ibrahim said in June that more than three thousand people had died in the clashes, but the number has not been updated since then and is expected to be higher.

In the same way, no medical group has provided a record of the number of unburied bodies, especially in the Darfur region in the south of the country where mass graves and killings of ethnic groups have been discovered.

Most civilians in the capital were killed in the gunfight, which turned the sleepy city into a war zone, the Sudan Doctors Syndicate said. Others died without access to basic medicines, and some were said to have starved to death due to gunfire that prevented them from going out to get food.

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In peaceful times, such funerals can last for several days. In Sudan, thousands of people come to pay their respects, and prayers are said before the dead are washed according to Islamic law and buried in graves dug by their family members. .

Seven former and current residents of Khartoum told The Associated Press that the conflict between army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, known as “Hemeti,” Mohamed Hamdan Tagalo, has ended. The three speakers spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Many speakers pointed out that when they wanted to bury their family members, friends or besieged, it had become impossible to access any of the capital’s 24 cemeteries.

More than 100 students were suspended when clashes erupted at the University of Khartoum on April 15, when student Khaled was shot in the chest and died a short time later, his colleague told the agency. .

“We dragged his body to the lower floors (of the building) to prevent its decomposition,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted.

The conflict has led to the displacement of millions of Sudanese

He and others then wrapped Khalid’s body in a makeshift Islamic cloth and buried it under a tree on the university campus after obtaining his family’s consent.

Kasin Amin Oshi, a resident of Omdurman’s Beit al-Mal district, across the Nile from Khartoum, said RSF prevented a family from burying a family member in a nearby cemetery. Instead, the girl died of natural causes and was buried in the school grounds.

Most residents say the RSF controls large areas of the city, often causing unrest. In the early days of the conflict, the army bombed RSF camps in the capital, prompting displaced RSF fighters to seize civilian homes and turn them into bases. The army bombarded residential areas from the air and artillery. According to United Nations data, more than 2.15 million people have fled Khartoum state.

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Al-Zubair discovered that his neighbor, Abbas, had been shot dead after the RSF raided his home, and that one of his brothers was an army officer and the other an intelligence officer. After Abbas’ body was taken to the hospital, RSF initially prevented the burial without giving any reason, but eventually agreed after the family’s plea.

Zubair said most people are too scared or unaware of the funeral on June 30 to attend. The country has been plagued by power outages and internet blackouts since the outbreak of conflict.

Youssef Essad, a spokesman for the Rapid Support Forces, told The Associated Press that the command had not issued an order to stop the burial of civilians, and that any halt would be because of heavy fighting nearby.

In contrast, residents described paramilitary forces as mostly lawless, out of boredom and amusement. But, they said, sometimes good deeds happen.

A resident of southern Khartoum confirmed that despite looting in his uncle’s neighborhood, a group of RSF fighters suddenly offered to move and bury him after his uncle died of natural causes in July.

Since June, the Sudanese Red Cross has been collecting bodies and burying them around the capital. The organization said it recovered and buried at least 102 bodies, most of them unidentified fighters from both sides, as a result of a brief lull in the fighting. A Red Crescent worker said the collected bodies were photographed and given an identification number.

Warn of water contamination by rotting corpses and spread of diseases during floods

And the international organization “Save the Children” confirmed that thousands will remain unburied in the capital, with many war-torn areas inaccessible.

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Last month, a community group from Bahri district, north of the capital, called on medical teams to collect the bodies of some 500 RSF fighters decomposing on the roads.

In southern Khartoum, an Associated Press journalist counted at least 26 bodies, mostly civilians and RSF fighters, lying in the streets in recent weeks.

He said a body had been decomposed in the open with bones visible near al-Zubayr’s apartment in Khartoum’s al-Sahafa district.

Unidentified bodies are usually taken to morgues. Dr. Attia Abdullah Attia, head of the Sudan Medical Association, said at least four facilities in the capital have been abandoned due to the fighting, while only five of the 20 hospitals in the city are functioning.

As the rainy season begins in Sudan, international organizations and rights groups fear more deaths and damage to infrastructure after last year’s floods killed dozens of people.

Decaying carcasses can contribute to the pollution of water sources.

Out of desperation, “many now drink from wells or from the Nile,” said al-Sadiq al-Noor, head of the International Islamic Relief Organization for Sudan.

Rolf Colon
Rolf Colon
"Creator. Award-winning problem solver. Music evangelist. Incurable introvert."

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