Sudanese lab seizure prompts WHO's biological risk warning; thousands flee

The crisis in Sudan escalated when one of the warring factions took control of a national health lab that contained biological material, according to a U.N. official. Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, the World Health Organization’s representative in Sudan, warned that the situation was “extremely dangerous” as the lab held samples of measles, cholera, and polio. Thousands of Americans, Europeans, and Africans were already leaving Sudan as a new three-day truce did little to ease the violence. Explosions and gunfire continued in Khartoum, despite the cease-fire negotiated by the United States and Saudi Arabia. The departure of diplomats, aid workers, and other foreigners are terrifying signs for many Sudanese that the mayhem will worsen. The whereabouts of Sudan’s former leader, Omar al-Bashir, are suddenly uncertain. One of the warring sides said he was in a secure location, and the other alleged he had been released. Meanwhile, the U.N. Population Fund has warned that the fighting threatens tens of thousands of pregnant women. Amnesty International’s Tigere Chagutah said, “Civilians in Sudan are caught in unending cycles of indiscriminate armed attacks, as well as other serious crimes and abuses.” The conflict comes less than three years after a fragile peace deal was supposed to end a war that began 20 years ago when the Sudan Liberation Movement attacked Sudanese military forces in Sudan’s western Darfur region. One-third of Sudan’s population of 46 million relies on humanitarian assistance, most of which has been suspended because of the escalating conflict. The council has been run by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, the country’s de facto president, and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who leads the rival Rapid Support Forces. They have clashed over the proposed move toward civilian rule. Meanwhile, refugees continue to flee the country, with at least 20,000 crossing the border into Chad.


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