Sudan fighting: Clashes continue for third day, with nearly 100 dead
Residents in the Sudanese capital Khartoum woke up Monday to the sounds of artillery and bombardment by warplanes, as intense fighting continued for a third day and the death toll neared 100, with hundreds more injured.
Clashes first erupted Saturday between the country’s military and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, who told CNN on Sunday the army had broken a UN-brokered temporary humanitarian ceasefire.
Eyewitnesses in Khartoum told CNN on Monday they heard mortars and artillery in the early hours of the morning, with the fighting intensifying after dawn prayers in the direction of Khartoum International Airport and Sudanese Army garrison sites.
Verified video footage shows military jets and helicopters hitting the airport; other clips show the charred remains of the army’s General Command building nearby after it was engulfed in fire on Sunday.
Residents in neighborhoods east of the airport told CNN they saw warplanes bombing sites east of the command. “We saw explosions and smoke rising from Obaid Khatim Street, and immediately after that, anti-aircraft artillery fired massively towards the planes,” one eyewitness said.
In the Kafouri area, north of Khartoum, clashes and street fights broke out at dawn Monday, prompting residents to begin evacuating women and children from the area, Sudanese journalist Fathi Al-Ardi wrote on Facebook. In the Kalakla area, south of the capital, residents reported the walls of their houses shaking from explosions.
Reports also emerged of battles hundreds of miles away in the eastern city of Port Sudan and the western Darfur region over the weekend.
As of Monday, at least 97 people have been killed, according to the Preliminary Committee of Sudanese Doctors trade union. Earlier on Sunday, the World Health Organization estimated more than 1,126 were injured.
The WHO has warned that doctors and nurses are struggling to reach people in need of urgent care, and are lacking essential supplies.
“Supplies distributed by WHO to health facilities prior to this recent escalation of conflict are now exhausted, and many of the nine hospitals in Khartoum receiving injured civilians are reporting shortages of blood, transfusion equipment, intravenous fluids, medical supplies, and other life-saving commodities,” the organization said on Sunday.
Water and power cuts are affecting the functionality of health facilities, and shortages of fuel for hospital generators are also being reported,” the WHO added.
In the CNN interview, Dagalo blamed the military for starting the conflict and claimed RSF “had to keep fighting to defend ourselves.”
He speculated that the army chief and his rival, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, had lost control of the military. When asked if his endgame was to rule Sudan, Dagalo said he had “no such intentions,” and that there should be a civilian government.
Amid the fighting, civilians have been warned to stay indoors. One local resident tweeted that they were “trapped inside our own homes with little to no protection at all.”
“All we can hear is continuous blast after blast. What exactly is happening and where we don’t know, but it feels like it’s directly over our heads,” they wrote.
Access to information is also limited, with the government-owned national TV channel now off the air. Television employees told CNN that it is in the hands of the RSF.
The conflict has put other countries and organizations on high alert, with the United Nations’ World Food Program temporarily halting all operations in Sudan after three employees were killed in clashes on Saturday.
UN and other humanitarian facilities in Darfur have been looted, while a WFP-managed aircraft was seriously damaged by gunfire in Khartoum, impeding the WFP’s ability to transport aid and workers within the country, the international aid agency said.
Qatar Airways announced Sunday it was temporarily suspending flights to and from Khartoum due to the closure of its airport and airspace.
On Sunday, Dagalo told CNN the RSF was in control of the airport, as well as several other government buildings in the capital.
Meanwhile, Mexico is working to evacuate its citizens from Sudan, with the country’s foreign minister saying Sunday it is looking to “expedite” their exit.
The United States embassy in Sudan said Sunday there were no plans for a government-coordinated evacuation yet for Americans in the country, citing the closure of the Khartoum airport. It advised US citizens to stay indoors and shelter in place, adding that it would make an announcement “if evacuation of private US citizens becomes necessary.”
The fresh clashes have prompted widespread calls for peace and negotiations. The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, is scheduled to arrive in Khartoum on Monday, in an attempt to stop the fighting.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also for an immediate ceasefire.
“People in Sudan want the military back in the barracks, they want democracy, they want a civilian-led government. Sudan needs to return to that path,” Blinken said, speaking on the sidelines of the G7 foreign minister talks in Japan on Monday.
The UN’s political mission in Sudan has said the country’s two warring factions have agreed to a “proposal” although it is not yet clear what that entails.
At the heart of the clashes is a power struggle between the two military leaders, Dagalo and Burhan.
The pair had worked together to topple ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, and played a pivotal role in the military coup in 2021, which ended a power-sharing agreement between the military and civilian groups.
The military has been in charge of Sudan since then, with Burhan and Dagalo at the helm.
But recent talks led to cracks in the alliance between the two men. The negotiations have sought to integrate the RSF into the country’s military, as part of the effort to transition to civilian rule.
Sources in Sudan’s civilian movement and Sudanese military sources told CNN the main points of contention included the timeline for the merger of the forces, the status given to RSF officers in the future hierarchy, and whether RSF forces should be under the command of the army chief, rather than Sudan’s commander-in-chief, who is currently Burhan.