Sudan’s military leader warns the war in his country could spread beyond its borders

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ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — The war in Sudan could spread beyond the northeast African country's borders if it is not stopped, Sudan's army chief told the United Nations General Assembly, while urging world leaders to designate the rival paramilitary force as a terrorist group.

“The nature of this war is now a threat to regional and international peace and security. ... This is like the spark of war, a war that will spill over to other countries in the region,” Sudan army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan told world leaders late Thursday.

Sudan plunged into conflict in April when long-simmering tensions escalated between the military, led by Burhan, and the rival Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. They had joined forces in 2021 to seize power in a coup that cast aside Sudan’s pro-democracy movement.

The conflict has killed at least 5,000 people and wounded 12,000 others, according to Volker Perthes, the U.N. envoy in the country, who announced his resignation last week.

Burhan said the Sudanese military has “knocked (on) all doors to stop this war” and asked the U.N. to designate the RSF as a terrorist group. He said the RSF has committed “all sorts of crimes that give grounds for such a designation,” including receiving the help of “outlaws and terrorist groups” from other countries.

“Those who have supported killing, burning, raping, forced displacement, looting, stealing, torture, trafficking of arms and drugs, bringing mercenaries or recruiting children — all such crimes necessitate accountability and punishment,” Burhan said.

Hours before Burhan's address on Thursday, Dagalo released a video on social media which he said was directed at the General Assembly members. In the video, Dagalo attempted to align himself with the country’s pro-democratic movement and portray the military as the aggressor.

“This violence has been unleashed by those who reject peace and believe that problems can be resolved through the use of force,” he said.

The Rapid Support Forces is accused by rights groups and monitors of human rights violations, sexual violence and ethnic targeting in the country’s current conflict, particularly in Darfur.

Both the Sudanese military and the RSF have been accused by Amnesty International of extensive war crimes, including deliberate killings of civilians. But almost all accusations of sexual assault have been leveled at the RSF and its allies.

At least 4.6 million people have been displaced by the fighting, according to U.N. data. Children are among those affected the most, with at least 1,200 of them dying in displacement camps because of a combination of measles and malnutrition.

Burhan said the conflict must be resolved for Sudan to transition to democracy through peaceful elections. Pro-democracy activists have said that Burhan's failure to hold a vote show he is unwilling to loosen his grip on power.

“We are still committed to our previous pledges to transfer to the people of Sudan with great national consensus and consent so that the armed forces will leave politics once and for all,” Burhan said.