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Sudan. Shots in Khartoum, military planes in the sky. They are wounded and killed

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Clashes broke out in Sudan between the army and a paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Force (RSF). According to media reports, the military surrounded one of the RSF bases, and the soldiers opened fire with heavy weapons. Both sides of the conflict say they control key buildings in the city. Military planes fly over the city. At least three civilians have been killed in the clashes so far. Dozens of people were injured.

Saturday’s armed clashes in Sudan it is the result of a rivalry that has been hidden for weeks between two generals – the country’s de facto army commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and RSF leader Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, known as “Hemedti”.

During the coup in October 2021, the two generals formed a common front to “protect the civilian population from the authorities.” However, over time, Hemedti denounced the coup, siding with the civilians, which brought him into conflict with al-Burhane. The dispute between the two most important generals in this African country made it impossible to resolve the internal political crisis.

As part of the changes proposed by the government, the RSF was to be incorporated into the regular armed forces, but the generals cannot agree on when this should take place, and the dispute has turned into an armed struggle, reports the BBC.

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Clashes in Khartoum Omer Erdem/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Mutual accusations

The commanders of the RSF forces, which gather former Darfur militiamen in their ranks, said that “in the morning they were surprised by the arrival of a large army contingent that surrounded their camp in Soba” and accused the government military of attacking them with “all kinds of heavy and light weapons.”

The army, in turn, described as “dangerous” the deployment of paramilitary forces in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities “without the consent or the slightest coordination with the command of the armed forces.” Then the military commanders began to talk about the approaching “historic turning point”.

Army spokesman General Nabil Abdallah said the conflict was the responsibility of the RSF, which “attacked military bases in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan.” “The army is fulfilling its duty to protect the homeland,” Abdallah said. He confirmed that the military had deployed armored vehicles throughout the capital to block access to the presidential palace, bridges leading to the suburbs and the headquarters of the General Staff.

Smoke over Khartoum AFP/East News

Shots in the streets

Cannons and armored vehicles appeared on the streets of Khartoum, according to Reuters. Shots from heavy weapons were also heard, including near the presidential palace in the center of Khartoum. Military planes fly over the capital. Many roads and bridges in the city are blocked. Clouds of smoke appeared over the capital’s airport, where the fighting took place on Saturday. There was panic among the local population.

As a result of fighting at the airport, a Boeing 737 plane of the Ukrainian carrier SkyUp caught fire. He reported on Facebook that “at the moment it is not possible to determine the condition of the aircraft and possible damage.” “The 36 employees who are in Sudan currently remain in a relatively safe location and are in contact with them,” SkyUp said. The company explains that SkyUp aircraft are based in Sudan under an agreement with local airline Sun Air.

In a “communication to the people” paramilitary commanders declared that they had taken control of the presidential palace. They also reported that they had control of the airport in Khartoum, as well as “several bases in different provinces” and two other airports – in Merowe and Al-Ubayyid.

The army in a statement denied the information and said that the country’s air force is conducting operations “aimed at confronting powerful paramilitary forces.”

Both leaders were interviewed by the same television

Sudan’s army commander-in-chief, General Al-Burhan, also stated on Al-Jazeera television that the Sudanese army controls the presidential palace, military headquarters and airport in the capital. The statement was quoted by the Reuters agency. General Al-Burhan was interviewed by telephone.

Earlier, a Qatari station conducted a live interview with the leader of the rebellious Rapid Relief Forces, Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, who said his forces had seized the presidential palace, the army commander’s residence and the Khartoum international airport, Reuters reported.

The BBC also reported that a local station correspondent was beaten by a Sudanese soldier in the town of Omdurman. The soldiers stopped his car as he was driving to a newsroom in Khartoum and took him to a local military unit, where one of the soldiers hit him on the back of the head.

At least three civilians have been killed in the clashes so far. Dozens of people were injured.

The specter of a long-term conflict

A confrontation between Sudan’s two largest military powers could spell a long-running conflict in a sprawling country plagued by economic collapse and outbreaks of tribal violence, according to Reuters.

The RSF and the Sudanese army jointly overthrew the country’s long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and have cooperated so far. A rift between the two emerged on Thursday when military authorities said the latest actions by the country’s largest paramilitary group were illegal.

The military took power in Sudan in 2021. The army declares its willingness to hand over power to a civilian government, but the deadline for incorporating the Rapid Support Forces into the armed forces has become an obstacle. Representatives of the RSF are of the opinion that this should be postponed for 10 years, the army insists on a two-year deadline. General Al-Burhan expressed his willingness to negotiate with his nominal deputy, General Dagalo, to resolve the dispute. Western countries and regional leaders have also called for this, the BBC reported.

Reiter’s news agency reported that the government of neighboring Chad closed its border with Sudan on Saturday and appealed for calm. “Chad appeals to the regional and international community, as well as to all countries, to give priority to restoring peace,” said the government in N’Djamena, the capital of a country that borders Sudan for more than 1,400 km. The border will remain closed “until further notice”.

The parties to the conflict called for the stabilization of the situation and talks, among others United States and the European Union.

Main photo source: Omer Erdem/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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