Sudan's army and RSF clash in streets of Omdurman

Paramilitary trying to reverse significant battlefield advances by the army across the Nile from Khartoum

Sudanese army makes significant advance against rival paramilitary

Sudanese army makes significant advance against rival paramilitary
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Sudan's army and a rival paramilitary fought on Thursday in the streets of Omdurman, part of the capital Khartoum's greater area that has in recent days become the focus of Sudan’s 11-month-old war.

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which has been fighting the military for control of Sudan since last April, sent fighters to Omdurman armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and heavy machineguns, according to residents and videos shared online.

Most of Thursday's fighting was concentrated in the area of the state radio and television complex that was retaken by the army from the RSF on Tuesday in a symbolically significant gain.

The RSF has yet to publicly acknowledge the loss of the complex, which it seized in the early days of the war. A video clip widely shared online showed its fighters in battle, running while sheltering behind a moving all-terrain vehicle fitted with an anti-aircraft gun.

Machinegun fire could be heard in the background as some of the fighters shouted “forward, forward” while running to keep up with the vehicle in front.

A body could be seen on the ground.

The video's authenticity could not independently verified but the type of vehicle is of a model known to be used by the RSF. It also had the red and green number plate typical of vehicles belonging to the paramilitary.

Residents said Thursday's fighting broke out in the early morning, mostly around or near the media complex and the district of Mulazmeen, home to several historical sites, including mosques and the shrines of revered Muslim clerics.

Omdurman is also home to several major military bases, including the headquarters of the army's Engineering Corps, and the largest stronghold of the Umma political party in the capital.

Large parts of Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, were captured by the RSF in the war's early days. The paramilitary, whose forerunner is a notorious Darfur-based militia called Janjaweed, is accused of widespread abuse in Omdurman and elsewhere in the greater capital area, including looting, commandeering private homes and arbitrary arrests.

“A band of RSF fighters tried to storm the building housing the local Omdurman council this morning,” said Zaher Mansour, who lives in Omdurman. "The troops inside the building repelled the attack, killing many and seizing several vehicles.

“The sound of gunfire continued for hours in the area. We also heard artillery shelling later in the day somewhere in Khartoum, but we could not tell what was going on or where."

The local council building, about 3km from the radio and TV complex, was captured from the RSF this week by army-allied volunteers, or Al Mustanfareen.

Elsewhere in Omdurman, residents said the volunteers also on Thursday recaptured Omdurman's all-female Al Ahfad University and the area's main maternity hospital from the RSF.

There were further reports of fighting between the RSF and the army on the Nile island of Tuti, also taken by the paramilitary early in the war. The residential and agricultural island is linked to Khartoum by bridge.

The war in Sudan broke out on April 15 last year when weeks of tension between the army and the RSF over details of the country’s democratic transition, especially plans to restructure the army and associated paramilitaries, boiled over into violence.

Many in Sudan see the war as essentially a battle for political and military supremacy between army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and his one-time ally, now RSF commander, Gen Mohamed Dagalo.

Both have long been suspected of harbouring political ambitions. They jointly derailed Sudan's democratic transition when they staged a coup in 2021 that toppled a civilian-led transitional government. Both claimed the move was necessary to spare the country a civil war.

The coup, which triggered western sanctions and months of deadly street protests, is blamed for creating the political and security conditions that allowed the current war to break out.

Now nearing the one-year mark, the fighting has created the world's largest displacement crisis, with more than eight million Sudanese having fled their homes, as well as a major humanitarian crisis.

The UN says 18 million of Sudan's 48 million people are acutely food insecure, five million of whom have reached the last level before famine. The UN World Food Programme says less than 5 per cent of Sudanese can afford a full meal.

Unless sufficient aid is delivered soon to Sudan, it has warned, “the largest famine crisis in the world” will emerge in the vast Afro-Arab nation.

However, the army this week rejected a call for a Ramadan truce to allow the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance to Sudanese in need. The call came in a UN Security Council resolution adopted on Friday.

Its rejection of the call is widely believed to be rooted in its fear that the RSF would use the cessation of hostilities to regroup or to advantageously redeploy its fighters. There have also been instances of RSF fighters looting UN food storage depots and aid convoys.

Several ceasefires mediated by Saudi Arabia and the US last year proved short-lived or were completely ignored, with each side blaming the other for their breach.

Al Shafie Ahmed reported from Kampala, Uganda.

Updated: March 14, 2024, 5:01 PM