Fighting for power in Sudan leaves at least 56 dead

StarAvis Desk
StarAvis Desk
6 Min Read
Smoke rises above buildings at Khartoum's airport

Sudan’s power struggle enters the second day. Explosions and gunfire were heard in Khartoum in the early hours of Sunday, amid competing claims on who controls the presidential place.

Fighting in the Sudanese capital continued into the early hours of Sunday after a day of deadly battles between paramilitaries and the army that left at least 56 people dead and nearly 600 wounded.

According to witnesses, explosions and gunfire could be heard on the deserted streets of Khartoum after the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Force (RSF) said they were in control of the presidential place, Khartoum airport, and other vital facilities.

The army denied the claims, and late on Saturday, the Sudanese air force launched airstrikes on an RSF base in the city of Omdurman, which adjoins Khartoum.

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The doctors’ union said at least 56 people had been killed in the fighting, including two at Khartoum airport and the rest in others parts of Sudan. The BBC reported that three UN workers were among the dead.

About 595 others were wounded in the clashes, it added in a statement early on Sunday.

The long-feared violent crisis between the two main factions of the ruling military regime threatens to destabilize not just Sudan but much of the region, as well as exacerbate a battle for influence involving major Gulf powers and the US, EU, and Russia.

The Sudanese armed forces are broadly loyal to Abdulfatah Al-Burhan, Sudan’s current de facto ruler. The RSF – a collection of militia – follows the controversial former warlord Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti.

The violence erupted after weeks of deepening tensions over the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army.

The integration was an essential element of talks to finalize a deal that would return the country to civilian rule and end the political-economic crisis sparked by a military coup in 2021.

The exact details of the events on Saturday are unclear. Still, reports suggest the army may have attacked a military base for the RSF in southern Khartoum in the morning, triggering firefights elsewhere in the city in the following hours. By noon, battles were raging around Khartoum’s international airport in the capital’s center, where flights were stopped after two Saudi jets were hit.

On Sunday, a US state department spokesperson said Secretary Antony Blinken has been engaging with countries with influence in Sudan to halt the fighting.

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“It does appear that significant weaponry had been involved in some of these attacks,” the official said.

On Saturday night, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, called for an immediate end to the violence.

His spokesperson said that Guterres spoke with leaders of Sudan’s army and paramilitary RSF, Egypt’s president, and the chair of the African Union Commission.

“There’s a lot of war propaganda and misinformation on both sides … but many countries in the region see this in terms of an endgame military with Sudanese armed forces outgunning the RSF,” said Kholood Khair, an analyst in Khartoum. “Hemedti may also have overestimated his popular support. People in Sudan want to see democracy but don’t believe either of these actors will bring it.”

Yassir al-Awad, a father of four daughters and a resident of Khartoum, told the Observer that the city was witnessing a “power struggle between military leaders.”

“The Sudanese people should not participate, but sadly we have been dragged into it. As Sudanese people, we do not have any interest in this. Whichever one wins, we are the losers at the end,” he said.

The Arab League, after a request by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is scheduled to hold an urgent meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation.

In a joint call, the Saudi and the United Arab Emirates foreign ministers and the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, emphasized “the importance of stopping the military escalation,” the Saudi ministry said.

In an interview with UAE-based Sky News Arabia, Hemeti said: “Burhan, the criminal, must surrender.”

He denied that RSF had started the fight, after Burhan said earlier that he “was surprised by Rapid Support Forces attacking his home at 9 am”.

The army, on its Facebook page, declared Hemeti a “wanted criminal” and the RSF a “rebel militia,” saying there “will be no negotiations or talks until the dissolution” of the group.

The military said it carried out airstrikes and destroyed two RSF bases in Khartoum. It said the airport and other bases remained under its “full control” and published a photograph of black smoke billowing from what it said was the RSF headquarters.


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