Dozens of civilians killed as 'shooting in streets' in Sudan continues

Top diplomats have called for an immediate cease-fire as the battle for control of Sudan rages on

Fighting raged on for a second day in Sudan in a power struggle between the country's military and a powerful paramilitary force.

At least five civilians were killed and 78 wounded Sunday, bringing the two-day toll to 61 dead and more than 670 wounded, said the Sudan Doctors' Syndicate. The group said it believes there were dozens of additional deaths among the rival forces.

Three employees of the UN food agency are among those killed.

The rival forces are believed to have tens of thousands of fighters each in the capital alone.

Both sides agreed to a three-hour humanitarian pause in fighting on Sunday, according Volker Perthes, the UN envoy for Sudan.

But an hour after the pause was meant to have started in the late afternoon, guns and heavy weapons firing could still be heard in parts of central Khartoum, even intensifying in some areas.

This satellite image shows incinerated passenger planes at the Khartoum International Airport. Credit: AP/ Maxar Technologies

Residents in the capital said fighting raged around the military’s headquarters shortly before sunset. “Heavy explosions and gunfire around the clock,” said Amany Sayed, a 38-year-old Khartoum resident. “The battles here (in the capital) never stopped.”

On Saturday, the British embassy in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, warned nationals to stay indoors as machine-gun battles broke out in dense neighbourhoods.

Tahani Abass, a prominent rights advocate, spent Saturday night huddling with her children on the ground floor of her family home near the military headquarters.

Ms Abass said: “The battles have not stopped. They are shooting against each other in the streets. It’s an all-out war in residential areas.

“No one was able to sleep and the kids were crying and screaming with every explosion."

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.

By the end of the day, the military issued a statement ruling out negotiations with the RSF, instead calling for the dismantling of what it called a “rebellious militia.”

The head of the paramilitary group, in turn, branded the armed forces chief a “criminal.”

The tough language indicated that the conflict between the former allies, who jointly orchestrated the 2021 coup, was likely to continue.

The clashes between Sudan’s military and the country’s powerful paramilitary come after weeks of escalating tensions between the two forces. Credit: AP

Meanwhile, diplomatic pressure appeared to be mounting.

Top 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 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.

US 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 on Sunday.

The death toll is expected to rise. Credit: AP

The fighting comes after months of escalating tensions between the commander of Sudan's miltitary, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the head of the RSF, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.

It also followed years of political unrest since the 2021 coup.

The recent tensions stem from disagreement over how the RSF, headed by General 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.

The fighting erupted early on Saturday, with the two sides trading blame over who started it and also making rival claims over who controlled strategic installations around the capital.

Fears of a civil war are growing, as Callum Watkinson reports

The military said in a statement late on Saturday that its troops had seized all RSF bases in Omdurman, while residents reported heavy airstrikes on paramilitary positions in and around the capital that continued into the night.

After nightfall, sounds of gunfire and explosions were still heard in several parts of Khartoum, they said.

One of the flashpoints was Khartoum International Airport.

There was no formal announcement that the airport was closed, but major airlines suspended their flights.

Saudi Arabia’s national airline said one of its aircraft was involved in what it called “an accident.”

Video showed the plane on fire on the tarmac and another plane also appeared to have caught fire.

Flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 identified it as a Boeing 737 for SkyUp, a Kyiv, Ukraine-based airline. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The doctors' group said two civilians were killed at the airport.

The RSF alleged that its forces controlled strategic locations in Khartoum and the northern city of Merowe some 350 kilometres (215 miles) northwest of the capital.

The military dismissed the claims as “lies.”

The clashes come as most Sudanese are preparing to celebrate the major holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims traditionally fast from sunrise to sunset.

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