Fresh explosions rocked Sudan’s capital this morning as fighting between the regular army and paramilitaries raged for a third day and the death toll climbed to nearly 100.
Violence in Khartoum broke out on Saturday after weeks of power struggles between Sudanese army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
In the days since, bitter fighting has sparked widespread international outcry with calls for an immediate ceasefire and dialogue.
A total of 97 civilians have been killed and hundreds injured so far, said the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate, a pro-democracy group that monitors victims. The group noted that the figure does not include all casualties, as many were unable to reach hospitals due to mobility difficulties.
There is no official word on the number of fighters killed in the clashes, of which there were many are captured in shocking video footage.
“There are gunshots and shelling everywhere,” said Wadeya Mahmoud Koko, head of a food workers union, from her home in Khartoum.
She said a shell hit a neighbor’s home on Sunday, killing at least three people. “We couldn’t take them to a hospital or bury them.”
Sudan’s capital is on fire amid bitter fighting and airstrikes
Fighters in Sudan are seen firing automatic weapons and taking cover from enemy forces
A Sudanese Air Force plane carries out an airstrike over Khartoum
Smoke rises as clashes continue in the Sudanese capital on April 16, 2023 between Sudanese armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF)
Clouds of smoke are moving from the center of Khartoum this morning
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and UK Secretary of State James Cleverly issue a joint statement on the situation in Sudan at a G7 meeting of foreign ministers in Japan, April 17
Violent clashes erupted in the capital Khartoum and sister city Omdurman on Saturday and have continued since
Loud gunfire and deafening explosions echoed through the streets of Khartoum Monday morning as the clashes continued.
Who are the RSF?
The Rapid Support Forces are a paramilitary group created by Sudanese intelligence in 2013 from the Janjaweed militia.
The Janjaweed militia had worked closely with the Sudanese army and police during the war in Darfur (2003-2020).
The war was fought between an alliance of rebels and the Sudanese government backed by the Janjaweed and backed by Libya, Russia, Iran and China, among others.
Rebel groups accused the government of repressing non-Arabs in Western Sudan.
The war saw a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Arabs resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and a major humanitarian crisis as refugees fled the country.
While the UN and African Union succeeded in establishing a peacekeeping mission in 2020 to help negotiate an end to the conflict, the RSF became a branch of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in 2013.
It has since been deployed in a number of roles domestically and in conflicts abroad, including in Libya and Yemen.
The RSF is accused of numerous human rights violations and allegedly associated with the Russian Wagner Group mercenaries active in Ukraine
According to witnesses, there was a stench of gunpowder as thick black plumes of smoke billowed from damaged buildings.
The chaotic scenes of battles involving tanks, truck-mounted machine guns, artillery and fighter jets in densely populated areas of the capital are unprecedented. Sudan has a long history of civil war, but much of it took place in remote tribal areas far from Khartoum.
On Sunday, the warring factions agreed to halt fighting for three hours to allow civilians to stock up on basic necessities. Compliance was erratic and there were reports of casualties during the humanitarian pause.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday reiterated his call for a ceasefire and a resumption of negotiations at a meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) rich countries in Japan on Monday.
“People in Sudan want the army back in the barracks,” he said. They want democracy. They want the civilian-led government, Sudan must return to that path.”
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly added: ‘Ultimately, the immediate future is in the hands of the generals involved in this battle. And we call on them to put peace first, to end the fighting, to get back to negotiations.
‘That’s what the people of Sudan want. That is what the people of Sudan deserve, and we will continue to look for ways to support that path back to peace.”
The fighting erupted after bitter disagreements between former allies Burhan and Daglo over the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army – a key condition for a final agreement to end a crisis since the 2021 military coup that they had orchestrated together.
The coup has already derailed a transition to civilian rule following the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and has led to a deepening economic crisis in Sudan.
Now the two generals dug in and said they would not negotiate a truce, but would instead launch verbal assaults and demand the surrender of the other.
Two burning planes at Khartoum International Airport, April 16, amid clashes over strategic locations between RSF paramilitary group and Sudanese armed forces
Sudanese greet army soldiers in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on April 16, 2023
Sudanese greet army soldiers in Port Sudan on April 16. The army appeared to have the upper hand in the capital Khartoum on Sunday
Sudan’s capital burns overnight amid ongoing clashes between army and RSF
A building is on fire after an air raid in Khartoum
The clashes forced Sudanese to huddle in their homes for fear of a protracted conflict that could plunge the country into even deeper chaos, dashing hopes of a return to civilian rule.
Since Saturday, the two sides have exchanged blame over who started the fighting.
Each has claimed the upper hand by declaring control of key locations including the airport and presidential palace, but none of their claims could be independently verified.
Fighting also raged in other parts of Sudan, including the western region of Darfur and the eastern border state of Kassala.
The killing of three World Food Program employees in North Darfur on Saturday prompted the agency to suspend all operations in the impoverished country.
Medics have called for safe corridors for ambulances and a ceasefire to treat the victims, as the streets are too dangerous to transport victims to hospital.
Founded in 2013 under Bashir’s leadership, the RSF grew out of the Janjaweed militia his government had unleashed a decade earlier against non-Arab ethnic minorities in Darfur, alleging war crimes.
The latest violence fomented by the two generals reflects the deep-seated division between the regular army and the RSF.
Despite widespread calls for a ceasefire, the two generals seemed in no mood to talk.
Burhan, who rose through the ranks under the now-imprisoned Bashir’s three-decade rule, has said the coup was “necessary” to bring more factions into politics.
Daglo later called the coup a “mistake” that brought about no change and revived the remnants of Bashir’s regime, who had been ousted by the army in 2019 after mass protests.