The Sudanese military and a powerful paramilitary group battled for control of the chaos-stricken nation for a second day Sunday, signaling they were unwilling to end hostilities despite mounting diplomatic pressure to cease fire.
Heavy battle involving armored vehicles, truck-mounted machine guns, and war planes raged Sunday in Khartoum’s capital, Omdurman, and other flashpoints across the country. The opposing forces are thought to have tens of thousands of warriors in the capital alone.
According to a doctors’ group, at least 56 civilians were slain, with dozens more killed among the opposing forces. According to the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate, about 600 persons were injured, including civilians and fighters.
The clashes capped months of heightened tensions between the military and its partner-turned-rival, the Rapid Support Forces. Those tensions had delayed a deal with political parties to get the country back to its short-lived transition to democracy, which was derailed by an October 2021 military coup.
In Khartoum and Omdurman, fighting was reported around the military headquarters, Khartoum International Airport and state television headquarters. A senior military official said RSF fighters clashed with troops at military headquarters early Sunday and that a fire broke out at a facility for ground troops.
“The battles have not stopped,” said prominent rights advocate Tahani Abass who lives near the military headquarters. “They are shooting against each other in the streets. It’s an all-out war in residential areas.”
Abass said her family spent the night huddling on the ground floor of their home. “No one was able to sleep and the kids were crying and screaming with every explosion,” she said. Sounds of gunfire were heard while she was speaking to The Associated Press.
Both the military and the RSF claimed control of important areas in Khartoum and throughout the country. Their assertions were unable to be independently verified.
Both parties indicated their unwillingness to negotiate late Saturday.
The military, led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, advocated for the elimination of the RSF, which it referred to as a “rebellious militia.” The RSF’s commander, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, told the satellite news network Al Arabyia that negotiations were out of the question. Dagalo demanded that Burhan surrender.
Meanwhile, diplomatic pressure seemed to be increasing.
Top diplomats, including the United States Secretary of State, the United Nations Secretary-General, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, the head of the Arab League, and the chairman of the African Union Commission, urged both sides to stop fighting.
Members of the United Nations Security Council, who were at odds over other problems across the world, demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to talks.
Arab powers with vested interests in Sudan, including Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, made similar pleas.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he consulted with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “We agreed it was essential for the parties to immediately end hostilities without pre-condition,” he said in a statement early Sunday.
The opposing troops were fighting in various sites across Sudan, including the western Darfur region, where tens of thousands of people reside in displaced person camps following years of murderous civil conflict.
According to Adam Regal, a representative for a Darfur organization, scores of people have been murdered and injured at a displaced people’s camp in the region of North Darfur since Saturday.
According to a military official who spoke anonymously because he was not allowed to brief the media, the two sides fought for control of the city’s airport in Nyala, the seat of the South Darfur region.
According to the source, fighting has also expanded to the east, including the districts of Kassala and al-Qadarif on the borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea. He stated that fighting was focussed on RSF and army bases.
The Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate appealed to international humanitarian and medical organizations to support medical facilities in the country. The group also called on the international community to press both sides to ensure safe passage for ambulances and medical personnel.
The recent tensions stem from disagreement over how the RSF, headed by Dagalo, should be integrated into the armed forces and what authority should oversee the process. The merger is a key condition of Sudan’s unsigned transition agreement with political groups.
Pro-democracy groups have implicated Burhan and Dagalo for crimes against protestors in Sudan over the last four years, notably the violent dismantling of a demonstration camp outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum in June 2019, which killed over 120 people.
Many organizations have constantly urged them to be held accountable. The RSF has long been accused of committing crimes in the Darfur crisis.
Sudan, a country at the crossroads of the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, has a history of military coups and civil wars dating back to its independence in the 1950s.
The country has borders with six African nations and a strategic coastline on the Red Sea. A decade-old civil conflict resulted in the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
The clashes will increase hardship in Sudan, where the U.N. says some 16 million people — or one-third of the population — already depend on humanitarian assistance.
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