Little let-up in fighting between army and paramilitaries in Sudan's capital

Troops and tanks in Khartoum's streets for a second day

Dozens of civilians killed as clashes break out in Sudan

Dozens of civilians killed as clashes break out in Sudan
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Warring parties in Sudan continued fierce battles for a second day on Sunday.

The fighting has resulted in the deaths of 59 people, including three workers from the World Food Programme.

Volker Perthes, UN Special Representative of the secretary general for Sudan, announced generals of Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces had committed to a “temporary pause in fighting on humanitarian grounds” from 4pm to 7pm local time. It is not clear if the humanitarian pause was honoured in its entirety.

Residents in the capital city Khartoum reported hearing heavy gunfire and artillery shelling throughout the day.

Calls for a cessation of hostilities made by world powers, including the US, UN, the European Union and the African Union went unheeded.

Air strikes against RSF bases inside and outside Khartoum were carried out overnight, according to witnesses.

An independent medical group associated with the country's pro-democracy movement said at least 59 civilians had been killed and as many as 600 wounded since the fighting began on Saturday.

Neither the army nor the RSF released casualty figures but each is believed to have lost scores of soldiers.

Khartoum residents on Sunday spoke of their fear as fighting in the city intensified.

“They have no mercy. This is it, Sudan is gone and our future as a people is gone with it,” said Asmaa Sadeeq, a doctor.

“My children have been crying. They are scared and there is that terrible feeling I have that I could lose a loved one any minute.”

Rania Mahmoud, who has three children, said her husband went to pull two of their children out of school on Saturday.

“The school is in Khartoum, and we live in Bahri [one of Khartoum's two twin cities]. They could not make their way back to Bahri, so they are staying with relatives at Khartoum,” she said.

“The situation is terrifying. No one thought it could come to that.”

The fighting forced Khartoum airport to close. Regional airlines, including Egypt Air, Saudia and Emirates, said they were suspending flights.

Authorities in Khartoum declared Sunday a holiday and urged residents to stay in the relative safety of their homes.

The two sides made conflicting claims on the progress of the fighting, with the RSF saying it controlled the Nile-side Republican Palace, the army headquarters and Khartoum airport.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, joined US and Saudi Arabian calls for a ceasefire.

Sheikh Abdullah “indicated the importance of joint co-operation to contain the current situation, stop the escalation, ensure the protection of civilians, and push towards peaceful paths” according to a statement carried by Wam news agency.

China, the EU and the African Union have also called for an immediate end to hostilities.

The UN World Food Programme on Sunday said it was temporarily halting its operations in Sudan after three employees were killed in North Darfur clashes.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded that people responsible for the WFP deaths face "justice without delay," his representative said.

The military denied the RSF's reports of the fighting, with army chief and military ruler General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan saying the army had everything under control.

He ordered officers and soldiers seconded to the RSF to immediately report back to their original army units.

Video footage that surfaced online on Saturday night showed Gen Al Burhan greeting troops and mobile armour crews after nightfall in Khartoum. His aides used mobile phones to light the way.

It was not clear from the clip where the tanks were stationed. A smiling Gen Al Burhan shook hands with soldiers.

“We know where you are hiding and we will get to you and hand you over to justice,” RSF commander Gen Mohamed Dagalo told Gen Al Burhan through an interview with Al Jazeera.

He also called him a “war criminal” and later told Sky News Arabia “Burhan the criminal must surrender.”

The fighting in Khartoum is the deadliest in living memory in a city that has suffered at least a dozen military coups, some of them violent, since independence in 1956.

The fighting took place as efforts to restore Sudan’s democratic transition, upended by a 2021 military takeover, were deadlocked over disagreements on the integration of the RSF into the armed forces as part of proposed reforms.

It is also taking place in the final 10 days of Ramadan when observing Muslims focus on their spirituality and prayers. Sudan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country.

The RSF also claimed that its men had seized the airport in the northern city of Merowe and an adjacent military base. It said it was in control of the airport in the western city of Al Obeid.

There were reports of fighting between the two sides in the Darfur cities of Nyala and El Fasher.

The outbreak of clashes came two days after the army said the recent redeployment and mobilisation by the RSF in Khartoum and other major cities posed a danger to national security and constituted a breach of the law and the paramilitary's own regulations.

More footage posted online showed passengers at Khartoum airport cowering on the floor as gunfire is heard in the background on Saturday.

The military said members of the RSF entered Khartoum airport on Saturday and torched several civilian aircraft, including a Saudia Airbus. The airline later said one of its aircraft in Khartoum was involved in an “accident”.

Late on Saturday, Egypt and Saudi Arabia called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League’s permanent representatives to discuss Sudan.

The RSF, meanwhile, assured the government in Cairo that Egyptian troops captured in Merowe would be treated well until their extradition is possible.

The Egyptians are part of a training mission stationed in the northern city’s military base.

The rise of the RSF

The RSF emerged from militias that fought on the government side in the conflict that broke out in Darfur 20 years ago. The militias were accused at the time of atrocities against civilians in the war that left 300,000 dead and displaced another 2.5 million.

It was legitimised in 2013 and is now thought to be a force of about 100,000 men, many of them deployed in Khartoum since 2019. The paramilitary expanded in recent years, independently procuring arms abroad and hiring foreign military advisers. It has vast economic interests, including goldmines.

Gen Dagalo is also known to enjoy the support of Russia and several regional powerhouses.

Gen Al Burhan and Gen Dagalo jointly staged a military takeover in October 2021. The two generals also co-operated in removing former dictator Omar Al Bashir from power in 2019 amid a popular uprising.

However, differences surfaced late last year with Gen Dagalo saying the takeover was a mistake and served as a gateway for supporters of Al Bashir to make a political comeback. Gen Al Burhan dismissed the claim.

Updated: April 16, 2023, 6:15 PM