Hundreds killed after 3 days of constant fighting in Sudan
Almost 100 civilians have been killed in Sudan and hundreds more injured as clashes between the army and a rival paramilitary group continued for a third day.
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a pro-democracy non-governmental group, put the total number of civilian deaths at almost 100 on Monday morning, with many combatants dying in the first clashes on Saturday. Most of the civilian deaths have been in the capital Khartoum.
The total number of people injured including military personnel was above 900, with many in “critical” condition, the doctors’ group said. The UN, the US, the EU, Russia and China have urged both sides to halt the fighting, which was triggered by a power struggle between the army led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, president since October 2021, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti, Sudan’s vice-president and commander of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
The clashes include army air raids on RSF positions. On Monday, Sudan’s military president ordered the dissolution of the “rebellious” RSF. The Sudanese army claims a senior colonel as well as various troops of the paramilitary group defected to their side. Hemeti accused al-Burhan of “bombing civilians from the air” with MiG fighter jets, adding: “We did not attack anyone. Our actions are merely a response to the siege and assault against our forces”.
Sudanese army spokesman General Nabil Abdullah said the army had launched air raids on the RSF. “We are working to end these clashes in a short period because we are keen not to endanger citizens,” he told Al Jazeera Arabic.
The office of the UN secretary-general urged them “to immediately cease hostilities, restore calm and initiate a dialogue”, adding that “any further escalation in the fighting will have a devastating impact on civilians”. US secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement: “We urge all actors to stop the violence immediately and avoid further escalations or troop mobilisation and continue talks to resolve outstanding issues.”
The African Union called for an “immediate ceasefire”, warning on Sunday that the fighting “could escalate into a full-blown conflict”. The head of the World Food Programme, Cindy McCain, said on Sunday she was “heartbroken by the tragic deaths of three” of the organisation’s employees in North Darfur, adding that one of their planes was “significantly damaged” in Khartoum “during an exchange of gunfire”, prompting the agency to halt operations in Sudan.
The warring sides accuse each other of starting the fight. People familiar with al-Burhan’s thinking said there had been a disagreement between the general and Hemeti over command and integration of the paramilitary force — which was once deployed to Yemen to support the Gulf-led offensive against Houthi rebels — into the army.
Both sides claimed to have control of the presidential palace and the international airport in Khartoum, as well as some of each other’s bases. With fighter jets in the sky over the Sudanese capital, the Sudanese air force warned the capital’s citizens to stay indoors.
According to Riyadh, Blinken and his counterparts from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — countries seen as close to Hemeti — talked and affirmed the “need to end the military escalation”. Members of the international community want the Sudanese leadership to return to a long-delayed “framework agreement” for transition to a civilian government.
Civilian and military leaders have been in talks over the transition to democracy after the 2021 coup that brought al-Burhan to power. The first talks started in 2019, after dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted following 30 years in power.
Former prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was deposed by al-Burhan and Hemeti, called for them to stop the fighting. “The bullet, when it escapes from the weapon, will not differentiate between the aggressor and the non-aggressor, and the victims are the Sudanese,” Hamdok said in a video posted on social media.
But the Sudanese armed forces have dismissed any possibility of talking to the RSF, which has its origins in the Janjaweed horseback militia that has been accused of committing atrocities in the western region of Darfur. “No negotiation, no dialogue before the dissolution of the rebellious Hemeti militia,” the army said on Sunday, calling Hemeti a “criminal”.