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US rolls out more sanctions in Sudan

A former foreign minister and two companies, including one based in Russia, are the latest targeted.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. has imposed fresh sanctions on one person and two companies, including a business based in Russia, for exacerbating the civil war in Sudan and hindering attempts to stop the fighting.

The State and Treasury Departments announced the sanctions Thursday, targeting a former foreign minister and two companies that supply the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary.

“We will continue to hold to account those who undermine peace and a democratic transition in Sudan,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press release.

War has plagued Sudan since fighting broke out on April 15 between the Sudanese Army and the RSF, derailing a Western-brokered transition to democracy after decades of military and authoritarian rule.

The internecine conflict has killed at least 5,000 people, injured 7,000 and displaced more than 4 million, although the actual casualties are likely higher. 

About 25 million people need some sort of humanitarian assistance, U.S. officials have said, which is more than half of Sudan’s population of roughly 45 million. The U.S. has provided more than $840 million in humanitarian aid in the current fiscal year in response to the conflict.

The sole individual targeted by Thursday’s sanctions is former Foreign Minister Ali Karti, who was part of the authoritarian regime of President Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir’s 30-year rule ended following a popular uprising in 2019 that gained support from the military and the RSF. The army and RSF shared power with civilian leaders in a transitional government for two years before ousting the civilians. 

After al-Bashir was toppled, Karti became leader of the Sudanese Islamic Movement, which the U.S. said undermined the civilian-led transitional government and contributed to the current outbreak of fighting. 

“[Karti] and other former regime officials are now obstructing efforts to reach a ceasefire between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, mobilizing forces to enable continued fighting, and opposing Sudanese civilian efforts to resume Sudan’s stalled democratic transition,” Blinken said in a statement.

The businesses targeted are GSK Advance Co. Ltd., a Sudan-based security company, and Aviatrade LLC, a Russia-based military supply company. 

The Treasury Department said GSK worked with Aviatrade to procure materials and training for unmanned aerial vehicles, which officials said are tied to the RSF.

Aviatrade’s involvement in the conflict is the latest purported tie with the war between Russia and Ukraine. CNN has reported that Ukrainian special forces hit targets of the RSF, which are allegedly being supported by the Russian Wagner Group paramilitary.

Thursday’s action applies to all property or entities that are owned 50% or more by those sanctioned.

Brian Nelson, the Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the sanctions show the U.S.’s commitment to hold accountable those “who have undercut efforts to find a peaceful, democratic solution in Sudan.” 

“We will continue to target actors perpetuating this conflict for personal gain,” he said in a press release.

Although both sides have been accused of war crimes and targeting civilians, Army General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan last week told the United Nations that the atrocities are being committed by the RSF.

The RSF, evolved out of the janjaweed Arab militias recruited by al-Bashir to brutally suppress an uprising that resulted in the infamous Darfur genocide, has been accused of re-ingniting the ethnic violence.

Al-Burhan urged world leaders to designate the RSF as a terrorist group.

"They have committed all sorts of crimes that give grounds for such a designation," he said. "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.”

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