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Sudanese expats face travel disruptions as violence leads to cancelled flights from Qatar

“We were supposed to go spend Eid with my brother who’s currently in Khartoum for university. Now he’s in danger, almost homeless, and we can’t reach him.”

Qatar Airways announced it would stop operating flights to Sudan on Sunday, after Khartoum International Airport was closed due to days-long violence in the capital.

“Qatar Airways is currently not operating flights from Doha-Khartoum and Khartoum-Doha due to the closure of Khartoum International Airport and airspace,” a statement said.

“Passengers are being advised and we are currently monitoring the situation closely for any future developments,” it added.

The latest developments come just days ahead Eid Al-Fitr, a peak time for travel among Muslims keen on celebrating the festivities at home.

Sudanese expat and resident of Qatar, Ola was due to head to Sudan with her family to visit her brother, who left the Gulf state three years ago. However, the plans soon fell through.

“My brother was renting a house in a known location in Khartoum… Now his landlord wants to empty the property and everyone is leaving because it’s unsafe, and even if he chose to stay, the food storage is running out and is only enough for a day or two.”

To Ola and the rest of her family, what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation back to her homeland with her family, has turned into stressful days and constant requests for updates.

“I’m scared, for my brother, for my country… Its been almost three years… My people deserve dignity.”

Saleh, a Sudanese-Qatari said he missed a flight to Khartoum a few days prior to the fighting.

“I’m grateful that I missed my flight, because I would’ve been stuck there. This was God’s will,” he told Doha News.

“Even if I have to travel by sea, I will go. I’ll find a way to Sudan.”

Flare up of violence

Three days of fighting that broke out between the Sudanese military and a paramilitary force has led to nearly 100 deaths and hundreds of injuries, according to the latest figures.

Led under the command of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known Hemedti, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) units have clashed with army units loyal to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s transitional governing Sovereign Council.

On Monday, Burhan told CNN that the RSF is leading “an attempted coup and rebellion against the state.”

The conflict comes in the wake of escalating hostilities over the proposed inclusion of the RSF in the military which has postponed the signing of an international agreement with political parties on a transition to democracy.

A coalition of civilian organisations that agreed to a draft of that agreement in December demanded on Saturday that hostilities cease right away in order to prevent Sudan from “totally collapsing.”

Omar al-Bashir, who was president at the time and was overthrown in 2019 after several months of pro-democracy demonstrations, founded the RSF in 2013. In 2021, the military overthrew a civilian-dominated transitional government with the help of the RSF.

Since then, tensions between the military and RSF have risen as the two organisations fight for dominance and legitimacy in the nation.