Fighting in Sudan enters 2nd week as truce breaks, embassies get ready to evacuate

Hundreds dead, thousands wounded as Khartoum resident says they are marking Eid with ‘gunfire and the stench of blood all around us’; foreign nationals set to be airlifted out

Smoke billows over residential buildings in eastern Khartoum on April 22, 2023, during ongoing battles between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)
Smoke billows over residential buildings in eastern Khartoum on April 22, 2023, during ongoing battles between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)

KHARTOUM — Fighting in Sudan’s capital entered a second week Saturday as crackling gunfire shattered a temporary truce, the latest battles between forces of rival generals that have already left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.

Overnight, the heavy explosions that had previously rocked the city in recent days had subsided, but on Saturday morning, bursts of gunfire resumed.

Heavy gunfire, loud explosions, and fighter jets roared in many parts of the capital by Saturday morning, according to witnesses.

Violence broke out on April 15 between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy-turned-rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The former allies seized power in a 2021 coup, but later fell out in a bitter power struggle.

The army announced Friday that it had “agreed to a ceasefire for three days” for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had called for a day earlier.

People fleeing street battles between the forces of two rival Sudanese generals, wait with their belongings along a road in the southern part of Khartoum, on April 21, 2023. (AFP)

Daglo said in a statement he had “discussed the current crisis” with Guterres, and was “focused on the humanitarian truce, safe passages, and protecting humanitarian workers.”

Two previous 24-hour ceasefires announced earlier in the week were also ignored.

The fighting has seen the RSF — a force tens of thousands strong, formed from members of the Janjaweed militia that led years of violence in the western Darfur region — take on the regular army, with neither side seemingly having seized the advantage.

‘Stench of blood’

In Khartoum, a city of five million people, the conflict upended the lives of civilians, who have sheltered in terror inside their homes without electricity in baking heat for days.

Many civilians have ventured out only to get urgent food supplies or to flee the city.

This image grab taken from AFPTV video footage on April 20, 2023, shows an aerial view of black smoke rising above the Khartoum International Airport amid ongoing battles between the forces of two rival generals. (AFP)

Eid is meant to be spent “with sweets and pastries, with happy children, and people greeting relatives,” resident Sami al-Nour told AFP. Instead, there has been “gunfire and the stench of blood all around us.”

While Khartoum has seen some of the fiercest battles — with fighter jets launching air strikes, tanks prowling the streets and gunfire in densely populated districts — violence also exploded across the country.

Residential buildings damaged in fighting are seen in Khartoum, Sudan, April 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

Late Friday, the army accused the RSF of attacks in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman where they released “a large number of inmates” from a prison, accusations the group denies.

Battles have also raged in Darfur, where Doctors Without Borders in the city of El Fasher said their medics had been “overwhelmed” by the number of patients with gunshot wounds, many of them children.

Embassies prepare for evacuation

Plans are being made to evacuate foreign nationals, with the United States, South Korea and Japan deploying forces to nearby countries and the European Union weighing a similar move.

On Friday, the US said the situation was still too risky for an evacuation of embassy personnel.

Later, the RSF said it was ready to “partially” open “all airports” in Sudan to evacuate foreign citizens, although it is not possible to verify which airports they control.

In a Saturday statement, Sudan’s army said Burhan had received calls from leaders of multiple countries to “facilitate and guarantee safety for evacuating citizens and diplomatic missions.”

A destroyed military vehicle is seen in southern Khartoum, Sudan, April 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

It noted that the evacuations are expected to begin “in the coming hours,” adding that the US, Britain, France, and China are planning to airlift their nationals out of Khartoum using military jets.

Saudi Arabia evacuated its mission in the country, with staff heading to Port Sudan in the east and from there to the kingdom, the army said. Jordan is planning a similar evacuation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said 413 people had been killed and 3,551 wounded in the fighting across Sudan, but the actual death toll is thought to be higher.

More than two-thirds of hospitals in Khartoum and neighboring states are now “out of service,” and at least four hospitals in North Kordofan state were shelled, the doctors’ union said.

People fill barrels with water in southern Khartoum on April 22, 2023, amid water shortages caused by ongoing battles between the forces of two rival Sudanese generals. (AFP)

The World Food Programme said the violence could plunge millions more into hunger in a country where one-third of the population needs aid.

Burhan and Daglo’s dispute centered on the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army, a key condition for a deal aimed at restoring Sudan’s democratic transition.

The military toppled autocratic president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 following massive protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule.

In October 2021, Burhan and Daglo joined forces to oust a civilian government installed after Bashir’s downfall.

Daglo now says the coup was a “mistake,” while Burhan believes it was “necessary” to include more groups into politics.

Most Popular
read more: