Explosions and gunfire resounded in Sudan’s capital Thursday as fighting between the forces of two rival generals showed no signs of abating ahead of festivities marking the end of Ramadan.
Nearly 300 people have been killed since the fighting erupted Saturday between forces loyal to Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Some of the fiercest battles have taken place in the capital Khartoum, a city home to five million people, most of whom have been cloistered in their homes without electricity, food and water.
“We were awoken today at around 4:30 am to the roaring sound of fighter jets and air strikes,” said Nazek Abdalla, a 38-year-old in southern Khartoum. “We locked our doors and windows hoping no stray bullets would hit our building.”
The violence entered a sixth day after another truce unravelled on Wednesday, with the crackle of gunfire heard and columns of thick black smoke seen rising from buildings around Khartoum International Airport and the army headquarters in the capital.
The RSF had said its forces would “fully commit to a complete ceasefire” from 1600 GMT on Wednesday for 24 hours, as did the army.
But witnesses said gunfire did not cease in Khartoum from the appointed time and into the night, as another ceasefire was breached withing minutes of its supposed start for the second time in as many days.
Eid celebrations marred
The fighting — which has so far killed and wounded hundreds of people — has taken a heavy toll on civilians around Sudan, many observing the holiest final days of Ramadan.
“We wish the fighting would stop during Eid festivities” which is to begin Friday marking the end of the holy Muslim month of fasting, said Abdalla, the resident of southern Khartoum.
“We know it will not happen though,” he lamented.
Burhan and Daglo’s bitter dispute centred around the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army — a key condition for a final deal aimed at restoring Sudan’s democratic transition.
Around the capital and elsewhere, RSF fighters atop armoured vehicles and pickup trucks laden with weapons have taken over the streets.
Many have put up checkpoints to search cars carrying civilians trying to escape Khartoum’s worst battle zones to safer areas in the capital and beyond.
Fighting has damaged residential and commercial buildings, and civilians sheltering in their homes are becoming increasingly desperate.
By Tuesday, thousands of Sudanese had fled the capital, with many reporting seeing dead bodies littering the streets as they made their way to safety.
Sudanese medics have warned of catastrophic health care situation, especially in Khartoum, where many hospitals were apparently caught in the crossfire.
As many as 70 percent of the hospitals in Khartoum and neighbouring states have been rendered “out of service” due to the fighting, the country’s main doctors’ union said.
The conflict had killed at least 270 civilians in the first five days, 14 foreign diplomatic missions in Khartoum said on Wednesday, in a joint statement issued by the US embassy.
The doctors’ union has warned, however, that the death toll was likely to be far higher, with many wounded people unable to reach hospitals.
Many countries have started to make plans to evacuate thousands of foreigners from the north African country but their efforts have been put on hold by the ongoing violence.
Burhan and Daglo toppled autocratic president Omar al-Bashir together in April 2019 following massive protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule.
In October 2021, the two men worked together in the coup against the civilian government installed following Bashir’s ouster, derailing an internationally backed transition to democracy.
Burhan, whose career advanced under Bashir, has maintained his coup was “necessary” to bring more factions into politics.
But Daglo, who rose to prominence during the Bashir government’s scorched-earth policy against Darfuri rebels, has since called the coup a “mistake” that failed to bring about change and invigorated Bashir’s remnants.