‘Real hell’: Deadly fighting escalates in Sudan as truce expires
At least 40 people have been killed in a new outbreak of violence in North Darfur state, activists and residents say.
Fighting in Khartoum intensified after a ceasefire agreement expired and a new outbreak of violence erupted in Sudan’s restive Darfur region, reportedly leaving dozens dead in what was described as “complete lawlessness”.
Black smoke billowed over the capital on Sunday after the ceasefire between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) expired hours earlier, live television showed.
“In the south of Khartoum, we live in fear of violent bombing, the sound of anti-aircraft fire and power cuts,” 34-year-old resident Sara Hassan said by phone. “We are in a real hell.”
Fighting in the capital has led to widespread damage and looting, a collapse of health services, power and water cuts and dwindling food supplies.
The RSF claimed it shot down a fighter jet after the army “launched a daring air strike against our forces’ positions” in northern Khartoum.
A military source said a Chinese-made plane crashed near the Wadi Seidna base north of Khartoum due to a “technical malfunction”.
Witnesses said they saw a plane flying from the south to the north of the capital with flames blazing out of it. Others spoke of airstrikes on RSF positions in the east of the city, resulting in some civilian casualties.
Among the other areas where fighting was reported were central and southern Khartoum and Bahri, across the Blue Nile to the north.
Brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States, the ceasefire calmed street fighting somewhat and allowed limited access for humanitarian aid, but like previous ceasefires, it was repeatedly violated. Talks to extend the ceasefire broke off on Friday.
The deadly power struggle that erupted in Sudan on April 15 has sparked a major humanitarian crisis with more than 1.
2 million displaced in the country and another 400,000 fleeing to neighboring states.
It also threatens to destabilize the region as a whole.
‘Completely out of control’
Deadly fighting also erupted outside the capital in the Darfur region, in the far west of Sudan, which has already been beset by long-standing unrest and enormous humanitarian challenges.
Witnesses reported heavy fighting on Friday and Saturday had caused chaos in Kutum, one of the main towns and a commercial center in North Darfur.
At least 40 people were killed and dozens injured, including residents of the Kassab camp, which houses people displaced by previous unrest, said the Darfur Bar Association, which oversees rights in the region.
The army denied claims that the RSF, which originated from Darfur militias and has its power base in the region, had taken over Kutum.
Darfur governor Mini Minawi – a former rebel leader now close to the army – denounced “looting” by armed groups on Twitter, declared Darfur a “disaster zone” and appealed to the international community for help.
West Darfur governor Khamis Abakar said on Sunday that there is “complete lawlessness” in his state. “Armed men have taken over everything and the situation has gotten completely out of hand,” he said.
Saudi Arabia and the United States said they maintained daily contact with army and RSF delegations that had remained in Jeddah, even as talks to extend the ceasefire were suspended last week.
“Those talks are aimed at facilitating humanitarian assistance and agreeing on short-term steps to be taken by the sides before talks resume in Jeddah,” the two countries said in a statement.
RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, said in a Facebook post that he had spoken to the Saudi foreign minister by phone to discuss Jeddah’s mediation efforts.
Hemedti’s whereabouts are unclear, although he appeared on video footage earlier with his troops in central Khartoum during the fighting.