(Reuters, CNN, BBC, AP, AFP)
KHARTOUM, April 16: reports that Sudan's army launched air strikes on a rival paramilitary force's base near the capital in a bid to reassert its control over the chaotic country on Sunday after a power struggle erupted into clashes that killed 60 civilians and dozens of fighters.
The battle that broke out on Saturday between army units loyal to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, is the first such outbreak since both joined forces to oust President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019.
Witnesses said that at the end of a day of heavy fighting on Saturday, the army struck a base belonging to the city of Omdurman, which is close to the capital Khartoum.
Both the RSF and military claimed they had control of Sudan's airport and other key installations in Khartoum, where fighting raged overnight.
As political factions negotiate to form a transitional government after the 2021 military coup, the military, and RSF have been competing for power.
Residents reported that in the early hours of Sunday, they are hearing gunfire and explosions from heavy artillery throughout the night. Al Arabiya television broadcast footage showing a thick plume of smoke rising over some districts in Khartoum.
Reuters reported that Sudan's MTN telecommunications company has blocked internet services in the country on the orders of the government.
"We're scared, we haven't slept for 24 hours because of the noise and the house shaking. We're worried about running out of water and food, and medicine for my diabetic father," Huda, a young resident in southern Khartoum told Reuters.
"There's so much false information and everyone is lying. We don't know when this will end, how it will end," she added.
Doctors' unions said it was difficult for medics and the sick to get to and from hospitals and called on the army and RSF to provide safe passage.
Many groups of civilians reported being trapped near the presidential palace and military headquarters.
As per Reuters, some 250 students and 25 teachers were trapped in a school less than a kilometer from the presidential palace all day Saturday and overnight with no food. About 50 students who hadn't been reached by their families remained there, Reuters told.
One small child was shot in the chest after entering the school courtyard but survived, a doctor said.
Social media videos showed military jets flying low over the city, at least one appearing to fire a missile.
The fighting followed rising tensions over the RSF's integration into the military. The disagreement over the timetable for that has delayed the signing of an internationally backed agreement with political parties on a transition to democracy.
The clashes coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when residents fast from dawn to sunset. A protracted confrontation could plunge Sudan into widespread conflict as it struggles with economic breakdown and tribal violence, derailing efforts to move toward elections.
Army is claiming that victory is near.
"We pray for mercy for the innocent lives taken by this reckless adventure taken by the rebel Rapid Support militia... We will have good news for our patient and proud people soon, God willing," the statement said.
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors reported at least 56 civilians had been killed and 595 people, including combatants, had been wounded since the fighting erupted. Around half of the civilians who were killed died in provinces outside Khartoum, it said.
Scores of military personnel were also killed, the doctors' committee said, without giving a specific number due to a lack of first hand information from hospitals where those casualties were taken.
On Saturday morning, the RSF claimed to have 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 rejected those assertions.
Late on Saturday, the Sudanese air force told people to stay indoors while it conducted what it called an aerial survey of RSF activity, and the government ordered businesses, schools, banks and government offices to close on Sunday.
The United States, China, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Nations, European Union, and African Union - appealed for an immediate end to the hostilities.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday he had consulted with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and that they had agreed it was essential for the involved parties in Sudan to immediately end hostilities without any preconditions.
After a phone call, the Saudi, U.S., and UAE foreign ministers called for a return to the framework agreement on the transition to democracy, the Saudi state news agency reported.
The armed forces said it would not negotiate with the RSF unless the force dissolved. The army told soldiers seconded to the RSF to report to nearby army units, which could deplete RSF ranks if they obey.
RSF leader Hemedti called military chief Burhan a "criminal" and a "liar".
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