Death toll passes 180 as generals continue to battle across Sudan

International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar reports on the outbreak of fighting in Sudan's capital

More than 180 people have been killed after a third day of fighting between the Sudanese military and a powerful paramilitary group.

Alongside the deaths, more than 1,800 people have been wounded since the fighting erupted, United Nations envoy Volker Perthes said.

The two sides are using tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons in densely populated areas. Fighter jets swooped overhead and anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies as darkness fell.

The death toll is feared to be much higher as many bodies, in the streets around central Khartoum, cannot be reached because of the clashes.

There has been no official confirmation on how many civilians or combatants have been killed. Earlier on Monday, the doctors’ syndicate had put the number of civilian deaths at 97.

The UN said three employees with the World Food Programme have also been killed in the fighting between the army and the country’s largest paramilitary force. The organisation has since suspended operations in Sudan.

"We cannot do our lifesaving work if the safety and security of our teams and partners is not guaranteed," said Cindy McCain, the executive director of the agency.

The military claimed to have secured the main television building in Omdurman, fending off RSF fighters, on Monday.

Smoke seen at Khartoum airport amidst ongoing clashes

About 16 million people, or one-third of Sudan's population, require humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

The clashes are part of a power struggle between General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the commander of the armed forces, and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group.

The two generals are former allies who jointly orchestrated an October 2021 military coup that derailed Sudan's short-lived transition to democracy.

The sudden explosion of violence over the weekend between the nation's two top generals, each backed by tens of thousands of fighters, trapped millions of people in their homes or wherever they could find shelter. For many, supplies were running out.

Smoke is seen rising from Khartoum's skyline on Sunday Credit: AP

At least 88 students and staffers have been trapped in the engineering college library at Khartoum University since the start of fighting, one of the students said in a video posted online on Monday.

Ms Perthes said that both Burhan and Dagalo agreed to a three-hour humanitarian pause in fighting in the late afternoon on Sunday, but violence continued to engulf the capital.

Fighting was also reported around Khartoum International Airport and state television headquarters. A senior military official said clashes with RSF fighters began earlier in the day around military headquarters.

"They are shooting against each other in the streets," said prominent rights advocate Tahani Abass. "It’s an all-out war in residential areas."

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called on both sides of the conflict to 'put peace first'

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 have urged the sides to stop fighting.

Members of the UN Security Council, at odds over other crises around the world, called for an immediate end of the hostilities and a return to dialogue.

Britain's Foreign Office Minister Andrew Mitchell condemned the "disgusting" targeting of aid workers in Sudan and advised against all travel to the country after fierce fighting erupted.

Mr Mitchell also insisted the government is pursuing "all diplomatic avenues to end the violence and de-escalate tensions", adding: "We are calling on both sides to break the cycle of violence and return to negotiations to agree an immediate return to civilian government for the sake of the people of Sudan and the region."

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Meanwhile, Labour called for a plan for worst-case scenarios, including famine in Sudan.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: "The UK has a special responsibility as the penholder for Sudan in the United Nations Security Council.

"We now need a plan for worst case scenarios including famine. We need regional international partners to join our calls for an immediate end to hostilities, and to refrain from any action that could fuel the violence."

There has been growing concern about the Russian mercenary group Wagner’s growing influence in Sudan even before the crisis.

The Wagner group started operating in Sudan in 2017, providing military training to intelligence and special forces as well as the RSF, according to Sudanese officials and documents shared with the Associated Press.

The group's aim in Africa, intelligence officials have said, is the "use of Sudan as a base" for operations in neighbouring countries, such as the Central African Republic.

Wagner provides military and intelligence training, as well as surveillance and protection of sites and top officials. In return, the group has been given control of the country's gold mines.