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50 civilians, three UN workers killed as Sudan war rage on

KHARTOUM: Fighting in Sudan raged for a second day Sunday, with fighting between opposing generals who seized control in a 2021 coup, killing more than 50 civilians, including three UN personnel, and causing worldwide concern.

Witnesses said deafening explosions and intensive gunfire shook buildings in Khartoum’s densely populated northern and southern districts as tanks rumbled on the streets and fighter jets roared overhead.

After weeks of power conflicts between army head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, commander of the heavily armed paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), violence erupted early Saturday, with both accusing the other of starting the fight. “The gunfire and explosions are nonstop,” Ahmed Hamid, 34, of a northern Khartoum suburb, said.

“The situation is very worrying, and it doesn’t seem like it will calm down anytime soon,” said Ahmed Seif, a Khartoum resident who believes his building has been damaged by gunfire but is too afraid to walk outside to check.

Both sides claim control of important locations, while state television played patriotic music without commentary. Daglo’s RSF claims to have taken control of the presidential palace, Khartoum airport, and other critical areas, while the army maintains control.

Footage obtained by AFP showed significant smoke billowing from a structure near the army headquarters in Khartoum, with the military claiming that a building “caught fire” during the fighting but was quickly extinguished.

The stink of gunpowder drifted through Khartoum’s streets on Sunday, which were deserted save for the military, as terrified people sought refuge inside their homes.

According to the Sudan Doctors Central Committee, 56 civilians were murdered, as well as “tens of deaths” among security troops and 600 injured.

Outside of Khartoum, fighting has erupted in the unstable western Darfur region and the eastern border town of Kassala, where witness Hussein Saleh said the army fired artillery at a paramilitary base.

Three World Food Programme (WFP) personnel were killed in hostilities in North Darfur, according to the UN. The three deaths on Saturday were not immediately apparent whether they were included in the figure released by the medics.

In a statement, UN Special Representative Volker Perthes condemned the killings, stressing that “civilian and humanitarian aid workers are not a target.”

He was also “appalled” by reports of projectiles targeting UN and other humanitarian facilities in various Darfur sites. According to the World Food Programme, an airplane managed by the organization “was also significantly damaged” at Khartoum airport.

Medics have continued to appeal for assistance on social media, appealing for safe corridors for ambulances and a ceasefire to treat the victims, stressing that the streets were too unsafe to transport numerous injured to hospitals.

The RSF originated in 2013 from the Janjaweed militia, which had been unleashed by then-President Omar al-Bashir a decade earlier against the non-Arab ethnic minority in western Darfur, attracting accusations of war crimes.

The intended merger of the RSF into the regular army was a significant component of negotiations to finalize an agreement that would return the country to civilian government and address the political-economic crisis caused by the military’s coup in 2021.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged for an “immediate cessation of hostilities,” while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated the conflict “endangers the security and safety of Sudanese civilians.”

Similar calls were made by the African Union, the United Kingdom, China, the European Union, and Russia, while Pope Francis expressed “concern” over the events and advocated dialogue.

Following a request from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the AU and the Arab League will have an emergency meeting on Sunday. However, the two generals appear to be in no mood for negotiations. Daglo, also known as Hemeti, told Sky News Arabia in the UAE, “Burhan the criminal must surrender.”

The army named Daglo a “wanted criminal” and the RSF a “rebel militia,” stating that “no negotiations or talks will take place until the group is disbanded.”

During the Muslim fasting month of Ramazan, more than 120 citizens were slain in a crackdown on frequent pro-democracy demonstrations over the previous 18 months.

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