Khartoum’s outskirts attacked as Sudan war enters sixth week

Bombing hammers southern Omdurman and Khartoum North as sporadic gunfire reverberates, witnesses say.

Smoke rises above buildings in southern Khartoum
Smoke rises above buildings in southern Khartoum on Friday as violence between two rival Sudanese generals and their troops continues [AFP]

Artillery fire has pounded the outer areas of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, as fighting that trapped civilians in a humanitarian crisis and displaced more than one million people entered its sixth week.

Air attacks were also reported on Saturday by witnesses in southern Omdurman and Khartoum North, the two cities that lie across the Nile from Khartoum, forming Sudan’s “triple capital”. Some of the attacks took place near the state broadcaster in Omdurman, witnesses said.

“We faced heavy artillery fire early this morning, the whole house was shaking,” said Sanaa Hassan, 33, who lives in the al-Salha neighbourhood of Omdurman. “It was terrifying, everyone was lying under their beds. What’s happening is a nightmare.”

In Khartoum, the situation was relatively calm, although sporadic gunshots could be heard.

The conflict, which began on April 15, has displaced almost 1.1 million people internally and into neighbouring countries. Some 705 people have been killed and at least 5,287 wounded, according to the World Health Organization.

The battle between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has led to a collapse in law and order with looting that both sides blame on the other. Stocks of food, cash and essentials are rapidly dwindling.

Talks sponsored by the United States and Saudi Arabia in Jeddah have not been fruitful, and the two sides have accused each other of violating multiple ceasefire agreements.

On Saturday, the US State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to army leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan about the ongoing talks. “In this step-by-step process, the Secretary urged flexibility and leadership,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The RSF is embedded in residential districts, drawing almost continual air attacks by the regular armed forces. In recent days ground fighting flared again in the Darfur region in the cities of Nyala and Zalenjei.

Both sides blamed each other in statements late on Friday for sparking the fighting in Nyala, one of the country’s largest cities, which had for weeks been relatively calm after a locally brokered truce.

Sporadic gun clashes near the city’s main market close to army headquarters took place on Saturday morning. Almost 30 people have died in the two previous days of fighting, according to activists.

The war broke out in Khartoum after disputes over plans for the RSF to be integrated into the army and over the future chain of command under an internationally backed deal to shift Sudan towards democracy following decades of authoritarian rule by ex-leader Omar al-Bashir.

The US Agency for International Development announced late on Friday more than $100m will be earmarked for Sudan and countries receiving fleeing Sudanese, including for much-needed food and medical aid.

“It’s hard to convey the extent of the suffering occurring right now in Sudan,” said agency head Samantha Power.

Qatar on Saturday denounced the vandalising of its embassy in Khartoum by “the irregular armed forces”, noting its diplomats and consular staff had already been evacuated. The ministry of foreign affairs in a statement called for the prosecution of the perpetrators.

Among the many looted buildings in the capital were several churches, including the Virgin Mary church in downtown Khartoum, according to a church official. Armed men gave the bishop a week to vacate the building, after which they looted it and set it up as their base, Reuters reported.

Church leaders have said they are not sure if attacks are targeted or part of the overall chaos gripping Khartoum.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies