Famous Sudanese singer Shaden Hussein dies in crossfire as fighting rages around Khartoum

She was heard telling her son to 'stay away from the windows' in an online recording shortly before her death

Sudanese singer Shaden Hussein, who died in crossfire in Omdurman on Friday. Shaden Hussein / Facebook
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Popular Sudanese singer Shaden Hussein has been killed in crossfire at her home in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, her family and friends announced on social media.

Her death unleashed a wave of sympathy online, drawing attention to the dangers to which residents of the Sudanese capital are exposed because of continuing fighting between the army and a rival paramilitary, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Hussein was from the town of Al Obeid in western Kordofan province. She shot to stardom in 2016, when she launched a career immersed in the ballad-singing traditions of the region.

The fighting engulfing Khartoum and other parts of Sudan broke out on April 15, capping weeks of tension between army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, Sudan's de facto head of state, and RSF commander Gen Mohamed Dagalo, his deputy on the ruling, military-led Sovereign Council.

In a live audio recording streamed online shortly before her death on Friday, Hussein could be heard telling her 15-year-old-son Hamoudy to stay away from the windows. She also made reference to being appropriately dressed in case she died. "We are going to die ready wearing full clothes," she said.

Shaden Hussein based her career on the ballad-singing traditions of her native Khordofan province. Hakama Shaden / Facebook

Hussein, 37, is one of hundreds of civilians to have been killed since the fighting broke out. Thousands have been injured with at least 200,000 forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring countries. An additional 700,000 have been displaced inside the country.

Her death came one day after representatives of the army and the RSF reached an agreement to protect civilians after talks in Jeddah sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the US. They were due to start negotiations on a ceasefire this week. Both sides continued fighting through previous ceasefires mediated by foreign powers.

Shelling and air strikes pounded parts of Sudan's capital on Sunday, with little sign that warring sides were ready to back down. Shelling struck Bahri and air strikes hit Omdurman early on Sunday, residents told Reuters. Al Arabiya television reported heavy clashes in central Khartoum.

Hussein's home in Omdurman is near the complex housing the state TV and radio, which was captured by the RSF during the early days of the fighting. The area has been the target of heavy air strikes by the army, which has used its advantage of air power to pound RSF positions in Khartoum.

"We have been trapped in our house for 25 days. People are looting before our own eyes and we are watching with regret filling our hearts," Hussein had written in a recent post.

"Yes, we are hungry and living in unimaginable fear. But we feel full with our ethics and values. If we die, we will die with our dignity and values intact," she wrote, alluding to the widespread looting in the capital, allegedly by RSF fighters, as well as civilians desperate to feed their families.

Some accounts on social media spoke of a stray shell hitting Hussein's home, although no official cause of death has been confirmed.

The RSF has repeatedly claimed that air strikes by the army as well as artillery shelling were killing civilians. The army has denied these claims, which it counters with allegations of RSF fighters looting and using civilians as human shields by taking up positions in residential areas.

In its latest statement on Saturday night, the army said RSF fighters were forcing residents out of their homes in Khartoum and were occupying 22 hospitals and healthcare centres in the capital.

Updated: May 14, 2023, 9:36 PM