Reported Fighting in Sudan's Darfur Mars Fragile Truce

CAIRO (AP) -- Fighting intensified in Sudan's war-ravaged province of Darfur during a fragile three-day truce between the country's battling top generals, killing an estimated dozens of people, residents said Thursday.

The truce eased fighting in the country's capital, creating a lull that allowed foreign governments to evacuate thousands of their nationals. Tens of thousands of Sudanese traveled to their country's land borders with Egypt, Chad and Ethiopia, and to a port city on the country's Red Sea.

The new clashes targeted civilians in the capital city of Genena, the residents said, an area that is regularly roiled by outbursts of brutal tribal violence. They described attacks by fighters, mostly wearing the uniforms of the country's powerful paramilitary, on several neighborhoods across the city early Thursday, forcing many families to leave their homes.

"The attacks come from all directions," said Amany, a Genena resident who asked to withhold her family name for her safety. "All are fleeing."

Much attention has been centered on the capital's intense fighting, including airstrikes and artillery and drone strikes, since the country's military and its powerful paramilitary known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) started battling for key government institutions and military bases on April 15.

The fighting in the capital has created dire conditions for many struggling to obtain food and water, and electricity is cut off across much of the capital and other cities. Multiple aid agencies have had to suspend operations, a heavy blow in a country where a third of the population of 46 million relies on humanitarian assistance.

But there are now more indications that other remote provinces are witnessing deadly violence.

Fighting in Genena first escalated earlier this week. Residents reported widespread looting and destruction of government offices and aid agencies' compounds in the city including U.N. premises and the headquarters of the Sudanese Red Crescent.

Adam Haroun, a political activist in West Darfur, said dozens of people were killed over the past two days in Genena. He said the fighting "with light and heavy weapons" has already turned into tribal violence.

Speaking over the phone from Genena's western neighborhood of Gamarek, Haroun said tribal fighters were roaming the streets, destroying and looting "whatever they found." He said Genena's main open market was completely destroyed.

"The battles are raging right now," he said over the phone, the sound of gunfire overtaking his voice at times. "It's scorched-earth war."

Volker Perthes, the U.N. envoy for Sudan, said late Wednesday that the Genena clashes have been centered on civilians and run the risk of kicking off a dangerous cycle of violence between rival tribes.

Meanwhile, in Khartoum, residents reported heading gunfire and explosions in some parts of the capital. They said the military's warplanes bombed RSF position in the upscale neighborhood of Kafouri. The RSF confirmed that its camp in the neighborhood was bombed.

And international pressures increased for the generals to reach even a short-term sort of peace, with the latest offer coming from Sudan's neighbor, South Sudan, which split from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir on Wednesday urged the warring sides to extend the cease-fire for three more days to allow civilians access to food and other services, including health care.

Addressing a joint press conference at the president's office in Juba, acting Foreign Minster Deng Dau Deng said Kiir has engaged with the leaders of the military and the RSF to launch negotiations to end the crisis.

Deng said Sudan's army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan has accepted the proposal, while Kiir was still engaging with the RSF commander Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.

The Sudanese military said it "initially accepted" an initiative brokered by the eight-nation East Africa trade bloc known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, extend the current cease-fire for another three days after it expires Thursday.

The diplomatic initiative would also include direct negotiations between the military and the RSF in South Sudan's capital, Juba.