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Dozens dead, hundreds wounded as Sudan’s army and rival force battle

Sudan’s military and powerful paramilitary forces fought fiercely in the capital and other areas, dealing a fresh blow to hopes of a transition to democracy and raising fears of wider conflict. The doctors’ union said Sunday’s death toll rose to 56, with at least 595 injured.

The clashes ended months of rising tensions between the army and its partner-turned-adversary, the Rapid Support Force. Those tensions delayed an agreement with political parties to return the country to its brief transition to democracy, which was derailed by an October 2021 military coup.

Chaotic scenes have unfolded in the capital, Khartoum, where fighters firing machine guns mounted on trucks are fighting in densely populated neighborhoods. “Fire and explosions are everywhere,” said Amal Mohamed, a doctor at Omdurman State Hospital. “We have not seen such battles in Khartoum before,” said resident Abdel Hamid Mustafa.

Later in the day, the military issued a statement ruling out talks with the RSF, instead calling for the dismantling of what it called a “rebel militia”. The head of the armed forces, in turn, called the chief of the armed forces a “criminal”. The harsh language signaled that the conflict between the former allies who jointly orchestrated the 2021 coup was likely to continue.

Increasing diplomatic pressure

At the same time, diplomatic pressure seemed to be mounting. High-ranking diplomats, including the US Secretary of State, the UN Secretary General, the EU foreign policy chief, the head of the Arab League and the head of the African Union Commission, have called on the parties to stop fighting.

Arab countries with stakes in Sudan – Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have also called for a ceasefire and for the two sides to return to talks.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that he consulted with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “We agreed that it is necessary for the parties to immediately cease hostilities without preconditions,” he said in a statement early Sunday morning.

WATCH |: Fighting started in Sudan on Saturday.

Sudan’s capital is beset by fighting between the army and a paramilitary group

Clashes in Khartoum between the Sudanese military and the Rapid Support Force group ended months of rising tensions between the two sides.

The fighting comes after months of heightened tensions between Sudan’s army chief, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and RSF chief, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. It also followed ongoing political unrest following the 2021 coup d’├ętat.

The latest tension stems from disagreement over how the RSF, led by Dagalo, should be integrated into the armed forces and which body should oversee the process. A merger with political groups is a key condition of Sudan’s unsigned transition agreement.

Fighting broke out early Saturday. Both sides blamed who started it and also made rival claims about who controlled strategic facilities around the capital.

At least 56 dead, 595 injured

At least 56 people were killed and 595 were injured in Sudan early Sunday morning.

The Sudanese Doctors Syndicate said at least six of the deaths were reported in the capital Khartoum and its sister city of Omdurman, and another eight near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state in the southwest.

The syndicate says the death toll is likely to be higher, with many believed to be still unaccounted for in the western Darfur region and the northern city of Merow.

The military said in a statement late Saturday that its troops had captured all RSF positions in Omdurman, while residents reported heavy airstrikes on paramilitary positions in and around the capital that continued into the night. They say that after nightfall, the sounds of gunfire and explosions were still heard in several areas of Khartoum.

One of the flashpoints was Khartoum International Airport. There has been no official announcement of the airport’s closure, but major airlines have suspended their flights.

Saudi Arabia’s national airline said one of its planes had “crashed”. The video shows the plane burning on the tarmac. Apparently, another plane also caught fire. Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 identified it as a Boeing 737 for SkyUp, a Ukrainian airline based in Kiev. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

2 civilians were killed at the airport

The medical team reported that two civilians were killed at the airport.

Burhan, the head of the armed forces, told the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news network that the day began with RSF troops “harassing” the military south of Khartoum, causing clashes. He said that RSF fighter jets entered Khartoum airport and burned some planes.

He said that all strategic facilities, including the military headquarters and the Republican Palace, the seat of Sudan’s presidency, were under the control of his forces. He threatened to send more troops into Khartoum.

A man stands at the podium.
In a video released by Sudan’s state news agency SUNA on Thursday, Sudanese military spokesman Brig. Nabil Abdullah, the statement said, warning of conflict following the recent deployment of powerful Sudanese militias in the capital and other cities. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds were injured in the ongoing battles. (SUNA/The Associated Press)

Dagalo accused Burhan of having started the battle by surrounding RSF troops. “This criminal forced this fight on us,” he said.

Dagalo told Al Jazeera he believed the fighting would end “within the next few days”.

The RSF claims its forces control strategic locations in Khartoum and the northern town of Merow, about 350 km northwest of the capital. The military dismissed the claims as “false”.

Clashes in multiple regions

Clashes also took place in other parts of the country, including Northern Province, the conflict-torn Darfur region and the strategic port city of Port Sudan on the Red Sea, the military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not there. authorized to report to the media.

Pro-democracy activists accuse Burhan and Dagalo of abuses against protesters over the past four years, including the June 2019 deadly dispersal of a protest camp near military headquarters in Khartoum that killed more than 120 protesters. Many groups have repeatedly called for them to be held accountable. The RSF has long been accused of atrocities related to the Darfur conflict.

Former Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, who was ousted in a 2021 coup, warned of a possible regional conflict if fighting escalated. “Shooting must stop immediately,” he said in a video message addressed to both sides on his Twitter microblog.

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former US diplomat, said the fighting could become more widespread and prolonged, calling on the United States to form a coalition of regional countries to put pressure on the countries’ leaders. military and RSF de-escalation.

The UN envoy for Sudan, Volker Pertes, and Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Sudan, Ali Bin Hassan Jaafar, have been in contact with Dagalo and Burhan to try to end the violence, said the UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

Chad has announced that it is closing its land borders with Sudan.

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