CAIRO (AP) — Gunmen attacked an 18-member Doctors Without Borders team working at a key hospital in Sudan’s war-torn capital Khartoum, the aid group said Friday.
The MSF medical team was stopped on the road on Thursday while transporting supplies to the Turkish hospital, located in South Khartoum district, the aid group said. The gunmen first asked the MSF team why they were in Sudan, then started beating some of them.
“After arguing over the reasons for MSF’s presence, the armed men aggressively assaulted our team, physically beating and whipping them,” the group said on its website.
One of the drivers was briefly detained, MSF added. The group did not say whether the attackers were in uniform or provide other details.
Sudan has been rocked by violence since mid-April, when tensions between the country’s army, led by General Abdel Fattah Burhan, and paramilitary rapid support forces, commanded by General Mohamed Hamden Dagalo, erupted into open fighting.
The conflict has since spread to several parts of the country, reducing Khartoum to an urban battlefield, and has also fueled ethnic violence in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
The clashes left more than 3,000 dead and more than 6,000 injured, according to June figures from the Sudanese government. However, the true toll is likely much higher, doctors and activists say. More than 3 million people have been internally displaced in Sudan or fled the country to escape violence, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Thursday’s attack has prompted MSF to question whether it can stay at the Turkish hospital, which has served as a base for the group’s aid efforts in Sudan. According to MSF, it is also one of only two hospitals still in operation in the Sudanese capital.
“MSF is seriously concerned that our presence in the Turkish hospital will soon be unsustainable,” MSF said in a Twitter post.
On the streets of Khartoum, rapid support paramilitary forces seem to have the upper hand. Over the past three months, his forces have occupied homes and other civilian properties, according to residents and activists, and turned them into operational bases.
The Sudanese army responded with airstrikes and shelling of densely populated civilian areas.
Widespread destruction and looting was also reported in Khartoum and the nearby city of Omdurman. Humanitarian facilities have often been targeted. At least two World Food Program sites were looted, the UN agency said, one in Khartoum and the other in the central town of El Obeid.