Fighting between the army and a rival paramilitary over a strategic military base in southern Khartoum raged on Tuesday for a third consecutive day, with a video posted online by the Rapid Support Forces suggesting that it might be on the verge of taking complete control of the facility.
The loss of the Armoured Corps Headquarters at Al Shagarah district would serve a significant blow to the army and add to several key installations in Khartoum under RSF control. These include the airport, the Nile-side Republican Palace, a large section of the armed forces headquarters, the base of a special police force and a large military industry complex.
The RSF posted videos on Monday showing its fighters inside what appeared to be the fringes of the sprawling, White Nile-side site. But Tuesday's clips showed larger numbers of fighters jubilantly walking among tanks, armoured personnel carriers and fighting vehicles.
A cloud of dark grey smoke could be seen in the background, in contrast with an overcast sky that's typical of the rainy season this time of year. Residents in the area reported heavy aerial activity over Al Shagarah but no air strikes by the army's jet-fighters or armed drones.
“Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!” chanted the fighters, some of whom were in civilian clothes. Others fired in the air to celebrate their victory or excitedly climbed on top of armoured vehicles.
The Armoured Corps in Al Shagarah is located amid several densely populated residential districts. Most residents have fled the area since the war between the army and the RSF broke out in mid-April. Many of the homes left behind have been looted by RSF fighters and used as field bases, according to residents.
“It has been really bad here for the past week and we just don't know when the fighting will end,” said one resident, Hossam El Deen Abady. “The fighting at Al Shagarah resumed today and we can see fires there.”
There was no word from the army or the RSF on the fate of the Al Shagarah facility. The army on Sunday said it had successfully repelled an RSF attack on the base, killing and wounding hundreds of the assailants.
The loss of the Al Shagarah encapsulates the predicament of the army in its fight against a more agile and lightly armed force, whose men have emebbed themselves deep in Khartoum's residential areas since the early days of the fighting. The army has been using heavy artillery and air strikes, but has had little success in dislodging the RSF fighters, who have taken over thousands of homes across the city.
“It is very clear that neither side holds the initiative in this war. They are both attacking and defending in turn,” Sudanese military analyst Omar Arbab told The National.
“Army troops carry out combing operations in neighbourhoods but they pull out as soon as they are done. The RSF goes on the offensive, but the result does not change the balance,” he said.
Mr Arbab said the army clearly suffered a shortage of manpower and pointed out that most of its bases in the capital were under siege. Volunteers fighting on the army's side mostly lacked combat experience and were easy prey for the RSF, he added.
“It looks like it will be a long-protracted war that is exhausting for both sides.”
Fighting between the army and the RSF has been mainly centred in the Sudanese capital. A spillover into the restive Darfur region saw genocidal attacks in June and july by the RSF and allied Arab militias targeting ethnic African communities. The attacks left thousands dead, reviving memories of the civil war that raged in the area in the 2000s and left 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million.
The war in Sudan is essentially a battle for domination between the army, led by Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, and his one-time ally and deputy, RSF commander Gen Mohamed Dagalo.
It has created a massive humanitarian crisis, with millions trapped in Khartoum, enduring lengthy power and water cuts, scarce medical care and skyrocketing food prices. More than four million people have fled their homes since the war began, with more than one million fleeing to neighbouring nations, mainly Egypt, Chad, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.