Strategically located where sub-Saharan Africa meets the Middle East, Sudan is bordered by seven countries, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya.
The country also straddles the 10th parallel, where mostly Muslim northern Africa meets the primarily Christian south.
Sudan gained its independence from joint British and Egyptian rule in 1956, but was quickly wracked by decades of civil war, which heightened following the discovery of oil in the country’s southwest.
While President Omar al-Bashir’s tough rule brought a level of comparative stability following a coup in 1989, tensions remained over the state of south Sudan that were not resolved until 2005, when a peace agreement was signed promising the southern regions of the country independence within six years.
In 2011, South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for independence, going on to become the world’s newest country.
The two Sudans continued to fight over the oil-rich Southern Kordofan state, however. Conflict in Darfur has also dogged the country since 2003, driven by tensions between black Africans and the country’s Arab elite.
Bashir’s alleged war crimes in Darfur made him a pariah in much of the world, but under US President Donald Trump, Washington had warmed to the Sudanese leader.
US attempts to re-engage with the Sudanese government have been widely viewed as a bid by the Trump administration to improve regional counter-terror cooperation and boost its diplomatic clout in Africa.