Fierce fighting erupted Saturday in Sudan’s capital between the military and the country’s powerful paramilitary force, raising fears of a wider conflict in the chaos-stricken country. A doctors’ group said at least three people were killed and dozens injured.
The clashes between the military and the Rapid Support Forces group capped months of heightened tensions between both sides that forced the delay of a deal with political parties to restore the country’s short-lived transition to democracy.
The sound of heavy firing could be heard across the capital, Khartoum, and its sister city of Omdurman, where both the military and the RSF have amassed tens of thousands of troops since an October 2021 military coup that derailed Sudan’s fragile path to democracy.
Residents described chaotic scenes in Khartoum and Omdurman as firing and explosions rang out in densely populated neighbourhoods: “Fire and explosions are everywhere,” said Amal Mohamed, a doctor in a public hospital in Omdurman. “All are running and seeking shelter.”
Another Khartoum resident, Abdel-Hamid Mustafa, said soldiers from both sides on armoured trucks were seen firing at each other in the streets and residential areas. “We haven’t seen such battles in Khartoum before,” she said.
One of the flashpoints was Khartoum International Airport, where clashes grounded commercial Sudan-bound flights from Saudi Arabia turned back after nearly landing at the airport, flight tracking data showed Saturday.
Saudi Arabia’s national airline said one of its Airbus A330 aircraft was involved in “an accident.” Video footage showed the plane on fire on the tarmac. Another plane also appeared to have caught fire in the attack. Flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 identified it as a SkyUp Airlines Boeing 737. SkyUp is a Kyiv, Ukraine-based airline. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Sudan Doctors’ Committee said two civilians were killed at the airport, without specifying the circumstances. The committee said in a statement that another man was shot to death in the state of North Kordofan.
The military and the RSF traded blame for triggering the clashes, which centred in Khartoum but also took place in other areas across the country including the Northern province and the strategic coastal city of Port Sudan on the Red Sea, a military official said.