Wednesday April 26, 2023
Rival forces say Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the international criminal court, has either been released or taken to a different location after attack
Sudan's former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir smiles as he is seen inside a cage at a courthouse in Khartoum in 2019 (Reuters)
An attack on the prison holding deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has raised questions about his whereabouts, with one of the warring sides saying he is being held in a secure location and the other alleging he has been released.
Al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for three decades was overthrown during a popular uprising in 2019. He is wanted by the international criminal court (ICC) for genocide and other crimes committed during the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region in the 2000s.
The Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which together had removed al-Bashir from power during mass protests, are now battling one another across the capital. The fighting reached the prison over the weekend, with conflicting reports about what transpired.
Military officials told The Associated Press that Bashir, as well as Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein and Ahmed Haroun – who both held senior security positions during the Darfur crisis – had been moved to a military-run medical facility in Khartoum under tight security for their own safety.
The army later accused the RSF of donning military uniforms and attacking the prison, saying they released inmates and looted the facility. The RSF, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, denied the allegations and claimed that the military “forcibly evacuated” the facility as part of a plan to restore al-Bashir to power.
Former official Haroun, who is also wanted by the (ICC), said that he and other former officials of Bashir’s government had been allowed to walk free, in a statement aired on Sudan television. He said they left the prison for their own safety because of the fighting and a lack of food or water.
Haroun also said he was ready to appear in front of the judiciary whenever it was functioning and would take responsibility for his own protection. It was not immediately clear if Bashir, who has spent extended periods in a military hospital, with him.
Both the military and the RSF have sought to portray themselves as allies of the country’s pro-democracy movement who are trying to restore its transition to civilian rule. But both joined forces to remove civilian leaders from power in a coup less than two years ago.
Kober prison held a number of activists detained after the coup. One of them who walked free, Ahmed al-Fatih, said he was willing to surrender at a police station but could not find any that were functioning amid the unrest, according to a statement released by his defence lawyers. Both activists said their lives were in danger at the prison as food and water ran low.
Videos circulating online appear to show a long line of prisoners leaving the facility with bags of belongings slung over their shoulders.
The ICC indicted Bashir, Hussein and Haroun on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.
The Darfur conflict erupted when rebels from an ethnic African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of oppression by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. Al-Bashir launched a scorched-earth campaign that included air raids and attacks by notorious Janjaweed militias – tribal fighters who stormed into villages on horses and camels.
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report