Sudan crisis: Further fierce fighting between army and RSF

Fierce clashes have been reported across Sudan as fighting between rival armed factions continues to spread.

Sunday - 16/04/2023 21:40 Author: Editors Desk Source: BBC News:

Violence between the army and a paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continued overnight into its third day. 

More than 50 people have been killed, and one estimate puts the number of injured at more than 1,000.

Witness reports suggest the army may be gaining the upper hand.

Earlier on Sunday, both sides held a temporary ceasefire to allow the wounded to be evacuated, although it was not clear how strictly they stuck to it.

The fighting is part of a vicious power struggle within the country's military leadership, escalating into violence between rival factions.

The two men at its centre disagree over how the country should transition to civilian rule. Sudan has been run by generals since a coup overthrew the long-standing authoritarian president, Omar al-Bashir, in 2019.

On Sunday the RSF claimed to occupy sites in the capital Khartoum and the adjoining city of Omdurman, and in the western region of Darfur, as well as Merowe Airport in the north of the country.

But later accounts indicated that the army had regained control of the airport, with the military saying they were dealing with "small pockets of rebels". 

Witnesses in Sudan told Reuters news agency that the army appeared to be making gains after blasting RSF bases with air strikes.

But early on Monday morning, the RSF repeated claims of "sweeping victories" and said they had control over Sudanese Ground Forces headquarters, the Presidential Palace, and a part of the Ministry of Defence.

The army has previously denied that the RSF has seized key sites in the capital.

The fighting is between army units loyal to the de facto leader, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF, a notorious paramilitary force commanded by Sudan's deputy leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti.

The major sticking points are over the plans to incorporate the 100,000-strong RSF into the army, and over who would then lead the new force.

'We haven't slept for 24 hours'

Some of the fiercest fighting has been in Khartoum, where residents have spoken of fear and panic.

"We're scared, we haven't slept for 24 hours because of the noise and the house shaking," Huda, a Khartoum resident, told the Reuters news agency. "We're worried about running out of water and food, and medicine for my diabetic father."

Another Khartoum resident, Kholood Khair, told the BBC that residents could not be sure of safety anywhere. "All civilians have been urged to stay at home, but that has not kept everyone safe." 

Satellite image showing smoke over Khartoum
Thick black smoke was seen over Khartoum (satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

The brief pause in the fighting on Sunday followed complaints from doctors' unions that it was difficult for medics and sick people to get to and from hospitals while the fighting was raging. 

A chorus of international voices has called for a permanent end to the violence.

Leading Arab states and the US have also urged a resumption of talks aimed at restoring a civilian government, while the African Union has announced that it is sending its top diplomat, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to try to negotiate a ceasefire.

Egypt and South Sudan also offered to mediate between the warring factions, according to a statement by the Egyptian presidency.

Death toll estimates have varied. The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors reported 56 civilians killed as well as "tens of deaths" among security forces, and an estimated 600 wounded. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation says more than 83 people have been killed and more than 1,100 people injured across the country since Thursday, when the RSF began mobilising its forces. It does not specify how many civilians have died in the fighting. 

Among the dead are three staff members of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which has suspended its operations in the country.

In a statement, the WFP said it was "horrified" by the news of the deaths, adding that one of its aircraft had been damaged at Khartoum International Airport during an exchange of gunfire on Saturday, which it says impacted its ability to provide aid.

Sudan state television is reported to have stopped transmissions, but it was not immediately clear what caused the break in programming.


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