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Sudan export highway blockaded as protests stoked by trade woes

Hundreds of truck drivers are stuck in a blockade of a major export route out of Sudan into Egypt, hampering exports of camels and other livestock as opposition to a military takeover has fueled festering grievances over trade.

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The blockade of the route known as the Northern Artery by the protesters, using waves of rocks and other barriers to barricade the road, began last month after Sudan sharply raised electricity prices for farmers.

By late January some 1,500 drivers were stuck as they tried to return to Egypt, an Egyptian trucking union said, giving the latest numbers available, with no signs of the protests waning.

“These are the fruits of our country passing through this road, this is why the Sudanese people must unite and hold a position,” protester Rashid Abuzeid said.

Protester Sherif Hussein said young people wanted to achieve their dreams and ambitions with the demonstrations. “The use of protests and marches, using barricades and blocking roads, these are all methods to achieve these demands,” he said.

Resistance committees that have rallied demonstrators nationwide against an October 25 coup have expanded the protest along the road along with other groups, demanding more support for Sudanese farmers and traders.

The blockade shows the vulnerability of Sudan’s economy, already mired in crisis, to political tumult. It follows weeks of protests that stopped shipping at Port Sudan, the country’s main trade hub, late last year.

Traders who share the sentiment of those blocking the highway say they lose out because Egyptian truckers dominate transport within Sudan, while internal restrictions hamper livestock exports, especially of camels, which can be a lucrative business in the region.

“They come into the country and our trucks have to stop at the border,” said Abdelhameed Mustafa Ismael, a trucking manager for livestock in Omdurman, which adjoins the capital, Khartoum.

Egyptian trucks also carry key Sudanese commodities like sesame, peanuts, and hibiscus, he said.

Camel profits

Egyptian truckers say they have been stuck for almost three weeks. “Their problem is with their government, not with us,” said one, standing amidst dozens of trucks in al-Hamadab in Sudan’s Northern State.

Camel herders say export restrictions cause them to lose out on large profits on racing camels. Some are smuggled to Egypt and the Gulf, while others are sold for meat.

“The state isn’t paying attention,” said herder Almanofali Abdelrahman.

The military-led Sovereign Council promised to address the electricity price rise, which it identified as the main cause of the protests, without noting other issues in a late January statement.

The protests also spotlight Sudan’s failure to add value to exports.

In the first nine months of 2021, Sudan exported almost $500 million worth of livestock and meat, making them the second largest export after gold, according to central bank data.

But it lacks modern slaughterhouses to process meat from its 120 million head of livestock for export, Sudan’s acting Minister of Animal Resources Hafez Ibrahim told Reuters.

The coup ended a power-sharing agreement between the military and civilians, dissolving a government that had made boosting agriculture a key pillar for an economic turnaround.

“This is a national issue, and this regime cannot remain for one day, because the fruits of this country are stolen,” added Abuzeid, the protester in al-Hamadab.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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