Burnt-out military vehicles litter Khartoum's deserted streets

Residents' desperate choice between flight or taking refuge amid heavy fighting

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In the Sudanese capital, charred paramilitary pickups hit by air strikes litter main streets and weary residents queue for bread in neighbourhoods largely emptied of civilian life.

On the outskirts, people haul suitcases long distances by foot towards bus stops as they try to flee the city.

A Reuters reporter returning to his family home on Sunday got a glimpse of a city enveloped by war over the past eight days. A journey that would normally last little more than 30 minutes took three hours amid the chaos of the conflict.

The clashes pit Sudan's army against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. They jointly took control of the country in 2021 but are now battling over plans for an internationally-backed transition to civilian rule.

It is the first time fighting on this scale has affected the capital, which is composed of Khartoum and the adjoining cities of Bahri and Omdurman and has a total population of more than 10 million at a confluence of the Nile.

Air strikes, shelling and gun battles have ripped across the city day and night, unabated through the final days of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, and through the three-day holiday of Eid Al Fitr which ended on Sunday. Repeated promises of ceasefires have not been abided by.

The RSF has embedded itself in several neighbourhoods, taking over buildings, while the army has used air strikes and heavy artillery to try to force its rival back, according to residents and witnesses who spoke to Reuters. The army has said it is trying to clear “hotbeds of rebel groups” from the capital.

The violence has cut water and power to much of the city. Damaged hospitals have closed their doors. Many civilians are trapped in their homes or stranded, risking theft and looting if they venture out.

The reporter crossed the Blue Nile to Bahri, the scene of heavy clashes over the past two days, before circling west and crossing the river to Omdurman in order to reach his family home from Khartoum, where he had been staying with relatives.

He navigated a city transformed by the military power struggle.

He saw heavy deployments of RSF fighters in the areas he drove through in the three sister cities, some manning checkpoints, where they demanded identity documents from drivers.

Army troops, who according to residents and witnesses began engaging in heavier ground fighting for the first time on Friday, could be seen at the entrance to Omdurman, where tanks, pickups and soldiers with automatic rifles were deployed.

Clashes continue in Sudan's capital, cutting residents' basic supplies

Clashes continue in Sudan's capital, cutting residents' basic supplies

After more than a week of warfare, the reporter found residential streets were mostly deserted. Petrol has become hard to obtain, and there were few cars on the roads. Supplies of flour and other staples are dwindling, and vegetables are scarce and expensive.

At the main market in Bahri, many buildings were badly damaged and burnt by fighting and air strikes.

In some areas further from central Khartoum, buses could be seen preparing to carry people north towards Egypt, part of a flight that has gathered pace over the past week.

People carrying small bags tried to hitch rides with passing cars or catch minibuses heading out of the city.

Near the Halfiya Bridge linking Bahri to Omdurman, a long diplomatic convoy with armed guards and flying British flags could be seen heading west, one of the evacuations of embassy staff and foreign citizens that began on Saturday and gathered pace on Sunday during a lull in the fighting.

Updated: April 24, 2023, 9:50 AM