Clashes, artillery fire and air raids surged in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, witnesses said, as a war between rival military factions that has displaced 2.5 million people and caused a humanitarian crisis entered its 11th week.
Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said it had seized the headquarters of a heavily armed police unit on Sunday as it sought an edge in its war with the army during heavy fighting in the capital.
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The RSF said in a statement that it had taken full control of the camp belonging to the Central Reserve Police in southern Khartoum, and posted footage of its fighters inside the facility, some removing boxes of ammunition from a warehouse.
“Now this headquarters of the Central Reserve Police in the southern part of the capital is about 12km [7.5 miles] from another camp which belongs to the Rapid Support Forces and which has been under attack by the Sudanese army using fighter jets and heavy artillery for a few days,” said Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Omdurman.
“The camp also has a lot of ammunition and it looks like it’s one of the targets for the RSF trying to gain control of the unit because of the vehicles, ammunition, and weapons there.”
However, Morgan added, it is not clear whether the RSF will be able to hold on to the police headquarters by the end of the day, as fighting is still ongoing and the Sudanese military has sent reinforcements.
Witnesses also reported a sharp increase in violence in recent days in Nyala, the largest city in the western Darfur region. The United Nations raised the alarm on Saturday over ethnic targeting and the killing of people from the Masalit community in El Geneina in West Darfur.
Khartoum and El Geneina have been worst affected by the war that broke out on April 15 between Sudan’s army and the RSF, though last week tensions and clashes escalated in other parts of Darfur and in Kordofan, in the south.
Fighting has intensified since a series of ceasefire deals agreed at talks led by the United States and Saudi Arabia in Jeddah failed to stick. The talks were adjourned last week.
Residents in the three cities that make up the wider capital – Khartoum, Khartoum North and Omdurman – reported fierce fighting from Saturday evening that continued into Sunday morning.
The army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has been using air attacks and heavy artillery to try to dislodge the RSF, led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, from neighbourhoods across the capital.
“Since the early morning in north Omdurman we’ve had air strikes and artillery bombardment and RSF anti-aircraft fire,” 47-year-old resident Mohamed al-Samani told Reuters by phone. “Where are the Jeddah talks, why did the world leave us to die alone in Burhan and Hemedti’s war?”
In Nyala, a city that grew rapidly as people were displaced during the earlier conflict that spread in Darfur after 2003, witnesses reported a marked deterioration in the security situation over the past few days, with violent clashes in residential neighbourhoods.
There was also fighting between the army and the RSF last week around El Fashir, the capital of North Darfur, which the UN says is inaccessible to humanitarian workers.
In El Geneina, which has been almost entirely cut off from communications networks and aid supplies in recent weeks, attacks by Arab armed groups and the RSF have sent tens of thousands fleeing over the border to Chad.
On Saturday, UN Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani called for safe passage for people fleeing El Geneina and access for aid workers following reports of summary executions between the city and the border and “persistent hate speech” including calls to kill the Masalit or expel them.
Of those uprooted by Sudan’s conflict, nearly two million have been displaced internally and almost 600,000 have fled to neighbouring countries, according to the International Organization for Migration.