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'Khartoum Exiles' Celebrate Eid Elsewhere

FILE: A deserted avenue is seen in Khartoum, Sudan, April 18, 2023.
FILE: A deserted avenue is seen in Khartoum, Sudan, April 18, 2023.

AL-JAZIRAH, SUDAN - Sudanese families who have fled fighting in Khartoum celebrated on Friday the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, trying for a sense of normalcy, the sound of explosions still ringing in their ears.

A day earlier, they were sheltering from gunfire and air strikes in the Sudanese capital as two rival forces vying for control fought in the city, killing hundreds.

"I was lost, until my work friend Mokhtar suggested we join him as he was leaving Thursday night," said Al-Shafie, his seven-year-old daughter tugging on his arm and asking for a toy.

With a laugh, Al-Shafie - who asked to be identified by first name only - picked her up and hugged her.

"It's the first time we've been able to fall asleep," he told AFP, finally far from the violence which they now "watch on television."

Al-Shafie and others who have left had to make sure they have somewhere to stay and calculate exactly how much fuel - growing scarcer and more expensive by the day - they had in their cars, before locking the doors to their home, terrified it would be their last time there.

Gathered in a local mosque in the state of Al-Jazirah, south of Khartoum, the newly displaced families joined a prayer for the festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Seven days of fighting between the army and paramilitaries in the capital and other parts of the country have killed more than 400 people and wounded thousands more, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Many in Khartoum, a city of about five million people, are left cloistered in their homes without electricity, food and water.

Thousands have left during brief lulls in fighting, taking with them their children, elderly relatives and few belongings.

They took great risks to get away from the ceaseless barrage of air strikes and anti-aircraft missiles launched by the army, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, on one side, and his deputy-turned-rival Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and his heavily-armed Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on the other.

In Al-Jazirah, people have been glued to their screens, watching the images from Khartoum and looking for ways to help.

Some began posting their phone numbers online, offering to host desperate Khartoum residents in their homes.

For anyone needing to hitch a ride, people offered cars heading down the highway that follows the Blue Nile River straight into Al-Jazirah.

Abdul Hamid, 44, who also requested his surname not be published, arrived from east Khartoum on Wednesday along with his children. They are staying with a cousin in Al-Jazirah.

"There are no sounds of explosions, no planes overhead," he told AFP in relief.

"We have a taste of life again," said Abdul Hamid as he watched his children playing.