Explosions and gunfire resounded in Sudan’s capital Thursday as fighting between the forces of two rival generals showed no signs of abating ahead of festivities marking the end of Ramadan.
Over 300 people have been killed since the fighting erupted Saturday between forces loyal to Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Some of the fiercest battles have taken place in the capital Khartoum, a city home to five million people, most of whom have been cloistered in their homes without electricity, food and water.
“We were awoken today at around 4:30 am to the roaring sound of fighter jets and air strikes,” said Nazek Abdalla, a 38-year-old in southern Khartoum. “We locked our doors and windows hoping no stray bullets would hit our building.”
The fighting entered a sixth day hours after another truce unravelled, with the crackle of gunfire heard and columns of thick black smoke seen rising from buildings around Khartoum International Airport and the army headquarters in the capital.
The RSF, a powerful force formed from members of the Janjaweed militia that led years of extreme violence in Darfur, had said its forces would “fully commit to a complete ceasefire” from Wednesday evening for 24 hours, as did the army.
But witnesses said gunfire did not stop in Khartoum, as another ceasefire was breached within minutes of its supposed start for the second time in as many days.
Beyond Khartoum, witnesses reported loud explosions in the city of Obeid, in central state of North Kordofan.
– ‘Reeks of death’ –
“It reeks of death in some parts of town,” said a witness who was leaving a hotspot in central Khartoum.
Ahmed Al-Mandhari of the World Health Organization said Thursday that “almost 330 people have died and almost 3,200 more” had been wounded in Khartoum, the western Darfur region and other states.
The fighting has taken a heavy toll on civilians across Sudan.
“We wish the fighting would stop during Eid festivities” which is to begin Friday marking the end of Ramadan, the holy Muslim month of fasting, said Abdalla, the resident of southern Khartoum.
“We know it will not happen though,” he added.
Burhan and Daglo’s bitter dispute centred around the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army — a key condition for a final deal aimed at restoring Sudan’s democratic transition.
Around the capital and elsewhere, RSF fighters atop armoured vehicles and pickup trucks mounted with machineguns have taken over the streets.
Many have put up checkpoints to search cars carrying civilians trying to escape Khartoum’s worst battle zones to safer areas in the capital and beyond.
Fighting has damaged residential and commercial buildings, and civilians sheltering in their homes are becoming increasingly desperate.
By Tuesday, thousands of Sudanese had fled the capital, with many saying they had seen corpses littering the streets as they made their way to safety.
– Hospitals hit –
Sudanese medics have warned of a catastrophic health care situation, especially in Khartoum where many hospitals were apparently caught in the crossfire.
As many as 70 percent of the hospitals in Khartoum and neighbouring states have been rendered “out of service” due to fighting, the doctors’ union said.
The union has warned the death toll was likely to be far higher, with many wounded unable to reach hospitals.
Many countries have started to make plans to evacuate thousands of foreigners from the north African country, but their efforts have been put on hold by the ongoing violence.
The Sudanese army said 177 Egyptian soldiers who had been captured by the RSF in the northern city of Meroe were evacuated Wednesday back to Egypt, which also confirmed their arrival, while another 27 soldiers were handed over to the Sudanese Red Cross and later to the Egyptian embassy on Thursday.
The United Arab Emirates said it had “led” the mediation for the Egyptians held by the RSF.
Burhan and Daglo toppled autocratic president Omar al-Bashir together in April 2019 following massive protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule.
In October 2021, the two men worked together in the coup against the civilian government installed following Bashir’s ouster, derailing an internationally backed transition to democracy.
Burhan, whose career advanced under Bashir, has maintained his coup was “necessary” to bring more factions into politics.
But Daglo, who rose to prominence during the Bashir government’s scorched-earth policy against Darfuri rebels, has since called the coup a “mistake” that failed to bring about change and invigorated Bashir’s remnants.
© Agence France-Presse