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Clashes in Sudan kill at least 25 people in the struggle for power between the army and the paramilitaries

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By Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir

KHARTOUM (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Clashes between Sudan’s main paramilitary group and the military on Saturday killed at least 25 people, a group of medics said, in an apparent struggle for control amid the country’s hesitations towards elections after a military coup.

The Sudanese doctors union said 183 people were injured in fighting between the military and the rapid support forces (RSF). It is unclear whether the victims were civilians.

The group said it had recorded deaths at Khartoum airport and the nearby city of Omdurman, as well as the cities of Nyala, El Obeid and El Fasher, which are west of the capital Khartoum.

The paramilitary RSF said it seized the presidential palace, army chief’s residence, state television station and airports in Khartoum, the northern city of Merowe, El Fasher and West Darfur state. The Army has rejected these claims.

The Sudanese Air Force late Saturday evening told people to stay indoors as it conducted what it called an aerial investigation into RSF’s activity, and Khartoum state declared a Sunday holiday, closing schools, banks and government offices.

Gunfire and explosions were heard throughout the capital, where TV footage showed smoke billowing from several districts and social media videos captured military jets flying low over the city. Eyewitnesses reported shootings in adjacent towns.

A RockedBuzz via Reuters reporter saw guns and armored vehicles deployed on the streets of the capital and heard heavy weapons being fired near the army and RSF headquarters.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan told Al Jazeera TV that the RSF should back down: “We think if they are wise they will bring back their troops who entered Khartoum. But if it continues we will have to deploy troops to Khartoum from other areas.”

The military said on Facebook that they will not negotiate with the RSF unless the paramilitary forces dissolve. The Army told soldiers seconded to the RSF to report to nearby Army units, who could deplete the RSF’s ranks if they complied.

RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, called Burhan a “criminal” and a “liar”. The military and RSF, numbering 100,000 according to analysts, are competing for power as political factions negotiate the formation of a transitional government.

“We know where you’re hiding and we’ll catch up and bring you to justice, or you’ll die like any other dog,” he said in an interview with the station.

A prolonged confrontation between the RSF and the military could plunge Sudan into widespread conflict as it struggles with economic collapse and tribal violence, and could also derail efforts to move towards elections.

The clashes follow growing tensions over the integration of the RSF into the army. The disagreement delayed the signing of an internationally backed deal with political parties on the transition to democracy.

A coalition of civilian groups that signed a draft of such an agreement in December called on Saturday for an immediate cessation of hostilities, to prevent Sudan from sliding towards “the precipice of total collapse”.

“This is a pivotal moment in our country’s history,” they said in a statement. “This is a war that no one will win and that will destroy our country forever.”

The RSF accused the army of carrying out a plot by loyalists of former President Omar Hassan al-Bashir – who was ousted in a coup in 2019 – and of having attempted a coup itself. A 2021 coup ousted the country’s civilian prime minister.


Eyewitnesses reported fighting in many areas outside the capital. These included heavy firefights in Merowe in northern Sudan, eyewitnesses told RockedBuzz via Reuters.

The RSF shared a video it said showed Egyptian troops “surrendering” to them at Merowe. The Egyptian military said troops were in Sudan for exercises with their Sudanese counterparts.

Hemedti told Sky News Arabia that the Egyptians were safe and that the RSF would cooperate with Cairo upon their return.

The video showed men dressed in army uniforms crouched on the ground speaking to RSF members in an Egyptian Arabic dialect. Unconfirmed reports by open source intelligence analysts state that several Egyptian Air Force fighter planes and their pilots have been captured by the RSF along with Sudanese military vehicles and weapons.

Clashes also erupted between the RSF and the army in the Darfur towns of El Fasher and Nyala, eyewitnesses said.

International powers – the United States, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union – have called for an immediate end to hostilities.

After a phone call, the Saudi, US and UAE foreign ministers have called for a return to the framework agreement on the transition to democracy, the Saudi state news agency said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke with Burhan and Hemedti, according to Guterres’ spokesman, and called for a return to dialogue. Guterres also spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian presidency said.

Chad has closed its border with Sudan while Ethiopia and Kenya have called for restraint.

A Saudi airline plane was targeted at Khartoum airport and the carrier suspended flights to and from Sudan, the state-owned airline said. Egypt’s national airline, Egyptair, said it had suspended flights to Khartoum for 72 hours. Video on social media showed frightened passengers huddled on the floor of Khartoum airport and a wrecked UN plane on the tarmac.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum and Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo; Screenplay by Nafisa Eltahir, Michael Georgy, Giles Elgood and Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Alex Richardson, Jan Harvey, Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis)

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