Sudan’s Army and RSF battle over key sites in the capital city of Khartoum, with 3 UN staff dead
A power struggle between Sudan’s army and a notorious paramilitary force has rocked the country, with 25 reportedly dead and hundreds injured.
Residents dodged gunfire in the capital, Khartoum, as rival forces battled over the presidential palace, state TV, and army headquarters.
Among the dead are three UN workers, who were shot after the two sides exchanged gunfire at a military base.
The clashes erupted after tensions over a proposed transition to civilian rule.
Both the army and its opponents, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), say they control key sites such as the airport.
Fighting continued into the night and violence was also reported around the country, including in cities in the Darfur region.
The army says jets are hitting RSF bases, and the country’s air force has told people to remain in their homes while it conducts a full aerial survey of paramilitary activity.
The fighting is between army units loyal to the de facto leader, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF, commanded by Sudan‘s deputy leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
Gen Dagalo said his troops would keep on fighting until all army bases were captured.
In response, Sudan’s armed forces ruled out any possibility of negotiations or dialogue “until the dissolution of the paramilitary RSF”, and Gen Burhan ordered the group’s disbandment.
At least 25 people have been killed and 183 others injured in the violence, the Sudanese Doctors’ Union told the Reuters news agency on Saturday evening. It said it did not know how many of the casualties were civilians.
Earlier, the union said three civilians had been confirmed dead.
A journalist from the Washington Post newspaper reported 30 people dead and nearly 400 injured, citing the UN and local doctors.
Three employees for the World Food Program (WFP), a UN body that delivers food assistance to vulnerable communities, were killed after the RSF paramilitary exchanged gunfire with Sudanese Armed Forces at a military base at Kabkabiya, in the west of the country.
Two other staff members were seriously injured and the RSF looted several WFP vehicles.
In Khartoum, people were filmed running away and taking cover as black smoke rose over the city.
A Reuters journalist said there were armoured vehicles in the streets, while a video showed a civilian plane ablaze at Khartoum airport. Saudi airline Saudia said one of its Airbuses came under fire.
Saudia and EgyptAir have suspended flights to Khartoum and neighbouring Chad has closed its border with Sudan.
“We don’t have any electricity,” a British-Sudanese doctor, who is visiting relatives in Khartoum, told the BBC. “It is hot. We can’t afford to open the windows, the noise is deafening.”
Another eyewitness speaking to the BBC via her Kenya-based sister said: “Shooting is still ongoing and people are staying indoors – there is so much panic and fear.”
Residents had not been expecting the clashes, she said, and many had been caught in transit, with bridges and roads closed and many schools in lockdown.
Duaa Tariq was speaking to the BBC when a military plane flew over her building. “They’re shooting live ammunition at the roof of the house next door and we’re just now taking shelter,” she said.
The UK, the US, and the EU have all called for an immediate end to the fighting. The UN’s secretary general has spoken to Gen Burhan and Gen Dagalo, urging them to end the violence.
US Ambassador John Godfrey said he “woke up to the deeply disturbing sounds of gunfire and fighting. I am currently sheltering in place with the Embassy team, as Sudanese throughout Khartoum and elsewhere are doing”.
Russia’s embassy was also concerned by the “escalation of violence” and urged a ceasefire, Reuters reports.
The RSF claims control of at least three airports, the army chief’s residence, and the presidential palace, but Gen Burhan denied this in an interview with Al-Jazeera.
There are also reports of clashes at the state TV station, which eyewitnesses say is now controlled by the RSF.
Gen Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, told Al-Jazeera that Gen Burhan was a “criminal” and would either be killed or “face justice”.
Earlier, the RSF had said that one of its camps in the south of Khartoum had been attacked.
For its part, the army has said that RSF fighters have been trying to seize the military headquarters.
“Fighters from the Rapid Support Forces attacked several army camps in Khartoum and elsewhere around Sudan,” the AFP news agency quotes army spokesman Brig Gen Nabil Abdallah as saying.
“Clashes are ongoing and the army is carrying out its duty to safeguard the country.”
The Reuters news agency is also citing witnesses as saying that there was gunfire in the northern city of Merowe.
The RSF released a video that it said showed Egyptian troops who had “surrendered” to them in Merowe. The Egyptian military said its soldiers were in Sudan to conduct exercises with their Sudanese counterparts and that it was coordinating with Sudanese authorities to guarantee the safety of its personnel.
Generals have been running the country, through what is called the Sovereign Council, since a coup in October 2021.
Gen Burhan is the president of the council, while Hemedti is its vice president.
But a proposed move to a civilian-led government has foundered on the timetable to integrate the RSF into the national army. The RSF wanted to delay it for 10 years, but the army said it should happen in two years.
Hemedti was a key figure in the conflict in Darfur that began in 2003 and has left hundreds of thousands dead.
Western powers and regional leaders had urged the two sides to de-escalate tensions and to go back to talks aimed at restoring civilian rule.
There had been signs on Friday that the situation would be resolved.
The 2021 coup ended a period of more than two years when military and civilian leaders were sharing power. That deal came after Sudan’s long-term authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown.
There have been regular pro-democracy protests in Khartoum ever since the coup.
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