Dozens killed as army, rivals battle for control of Sudan

The Sudanese military and a powerful paramilitary group are battling for control of the chaos-stricken nation for a second day

Via AP news wire
Sunday 16 April 2023 08:07 BST

The Sudanese military and a powerful paramilitary group battled for control of the chaos-stricken nation for a second day Sunday, signaling they were unwilling to end hostilities despite mounting diplomatic pressure to cease fire.

A doctors’ group said at least 56 civilians were killed and that it believed there were dozens of additional deaths among the rival forces. The Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate said close to 600 people were wounded, including civilians and fighters.

The clashes capped months of heightened tensions between the military and its partner-turned-rival, the Rapid Support Forces group. Those tensions had delayed a deal with political parties to get the country back to its short-lived transition to democracy, which was derailed by an October 2021 military coup.

Heavy fighting raged early Sunday morning in the capital of Khartoum and the adjoining city of Omdurman, There were fierce clashes around the military headquarters, Khartoum International Airport and state television headquarters, said Tahani Abass, a prominent rights advocate.

“The battles have not stopped,” she said from her family home close to the military headquarters. “They are shooting against each other in the streets. It’s an all-out war in residential areas.”

Abass said her family spent the night huddling on the ground floor of their home. “No one was able to sleep and the kids were crying and screaming with every explosion,” she said. Sounds of gunfire were heard while she was speaking to The Associated Press.

Military jets also pounded RSF bases across the capital.

The military and the RSF both claimed to be in control of strategic locations in Khartoum and elsewhere in the county. Their claims couldn’t be independently verified.

Both sides signaled late Saturday that they were unwilling to negotiate.

The military, headed by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, called for dismantling the RSF, which it labeled a “rebellious militia.” The head of the RSF, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, told the satellite news network Al Arabyia that he ruled out negotiations. Dagalo called on Burhan to surrender.

Meanwhile, diplomatic pressure appeared to be mounting. Top diplomats, including the U.S. Secretary of State, the U.N. secretary-general, the EU foreign policy chief, the head of the Arab League and the head of the African Union Commission urged the sides to stop fighting.

Arab states with stakes in Sudan — Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — also called for a cease-fire and for both parties to return to negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he consulted with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “We agreed it was essential for the parties to immediately end hostilities without pre-condition,” he said in a statement early Sunday.

The recent tensions stem from disagreement over how the RSF, headed by Dagalo, should be integrated into the armed forces and what authority should oversee the process. The merger is a key condition of Sudan’s unsigned transition agreement with political groups.

Pro-democracy activists have blamed Burhan and Dagalo for abuses against protesters across the county over the past four years, including the deadly break-up of a protest camp outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum in June 2019 that killed over 120 protesters. Many groups have repeatedly called for holding them accountable. The RSF has long been accused of atrocities linked to the Darfur conflict.


Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.

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