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Al-Bashir Crew Breakout Bodes Ill for Sudan

FILE: Jail Cell Door And Welded Iron Bars depicted in this digital artwork. Uploaded Nov. 29th, 2017

KHARTOUM - A wanted Sudanese war crimes suspect has confirmed that he and other members of the Islamist regime ousted in 2019 have escaped from prison during recent fighting, raising new fears for a fragile ceasefire that has enabled foreigners to flee.

The escape of leading figures from the ousted regime of Omar al-Bashir, at least one of whom is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, has raised fears the conflict may take a turn for the worse.

Ahmed Harun, a top Bashir aide who led the regime's infamous counter-insurgency operations in Darfur in the mid-2000s, said late Tuesday that he and other regime members had escaped from Kober prison.

The ousted dictator had himself been held in the same prison but the army confirmed Tuesday that the 79-year-old had already been transferred to hospital before the current fighting erupted on April 15.

Members of Bashir's regime, including the strongman himself, had been moved to a military hospital "due to their health conditions... and remain in the hospital under the guard of the judicial police", the army said in a statement, without specifying when they had been moved.

It was the third reported jail break to have taken advantage of the fighting between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and those backing his deputy turned rival, RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

"We remained in our detention at Kober, under the crossfire of this current battle, for nine days," even after the jail was emptied of both guards and prisoners, Harun said in a recorded address to Sudanese television.

He said he and fellow jailed regime members "had now taken responsibility for our protection in our own hands" in another location.

Sudanese authorities and the RSF traded accusations over the release of inmates, with the police saying paramilitary gunmen had stormed into five prisons over the weekend, killing several guards and opening the gates.

The RSF blamed authorities for letting Haroun and others out.

The release of convicted criminals added to a growing sense of lawlessness in Khartoum, where residents have reported worsening insecurity, with widespread looting and gangs roaming the streets.

"This war, which is ignited by the ousted regime, will lead the country to collapse," said Sudan's Forces of Freedom and Change, a political grouping leading an internationally backed plan to transfer to civilian rule derailed by the eruption of fighting.

The fighting between the rival generals, which has involved air strikes and artillery exchanges, has killed hundreds of people and left some neighborhoods of greater Khartoum in ruins.

The conflict has killed at least 459 people and wounded more than 4,000, according to UN agencies.

This report was sourced from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.