The capital of Sudan, Khartoum, has witnessed intense fighting between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), leading to the deaths of at least 56 civilians and injuring 595 others, including combatants, according to the Sudanese Doctors Union. The conflict has entered its second day, and footage from Al Jazeera showed smoke rising over the city’s skyline on Sunday. Witnesses reported seeing fighter jets in the skies over Khartoum, apparently targeting RSF locations with air raids. The Reuters news agency stated that heavy artillery fire was exchanged across the capital and surrounding regions, and fighter planes were also involved in the hostilities.
Reports suggest that there was fighting on Saturday in the capital and other regions of the country. Witnesses claim that the army attacked an RSF base in the city of Omdurman, situated outside Khartoum. The sound of gunfire was audible throughout the capital, and reports indicate that combatants from both factions utilised armoured vehicles and machine guns mounted on pick-up trucks in crowded areas.
The RSF claimed to have taken control of the presidential palace, the residence of the army chief, the state TV station, and airports in Khartoum, Merowe, El Fasher, and West Darfur state, but the army dismissed these claims. The air force advised the public to remain indoors while it conducted an “aerial survey” of RSF activities, leading to the closure of schools, banks, and government offices.
The conflict has arisen from deteriorating relations between General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander of Sudan’s military, and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the RSF, in recent months. The disagreement arose from differences about how the RSF should be integrated into the armed forces and which authority should oversee the process, which is a crucial element of Sudan’s unsigned transition deal with political groups.
Fighting has also been reported in Bahri, to the north of the capital, and in Omdurman, located northwest of Khartoum. Gunfire has also been heard in Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where there had been no prior accounts of hostilities. In western Sudan’s Kabkabiya, three employees of the World Food Programme were killed in crossfire at a military base.
The coalition of civilian groups that had signed a preliminary version of the agreement in December demanded an immediate end to hostilities on Saturday to prevent Sudan from plunging into “total collapse.” The RSF was established in 2013 by then-president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted after months of pro-democracy protests in 2019. In 2021, the military overthrew a civilian-led transitional government with the support of the RSF, resulting in increased tensions between the military and RSF as they compete for control and legitimacy.