Fighting rages in Sudan as army tries to cut RSF supply lines

The army launches air strikes as heavy artillery fire and ground battles are reported in Omdurman.

Omdurman singer Shaden Gardood
Smoke rises over Omdurman near Halfaya Bridge during fighting between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Fierce battles have broken out across Omdurman, a city across the Nile from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, as the army tries to cut off supply routes used by its paramilitary rivals to bring in reinforcements.

The army launched air strikes and fired heavy artillery on Tuesday, and there were ground battles in several parts of Omdurman, witnesses said.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said it had shot down a fighter jet, and residents posted footage that appeared to show pilots ejecting from a plane. There was no immediate comment from the army.

The conflict, which erupted between the army and RSF on April 15, has brought daily fighting to the capital, triggered ethnically motivated killings in the western region of Darfur and threatened to drag Sudan into a protracted civil war.

The RSF quickly took control of swathes of Khartoum and has brought in extra fighters from Darfur and Kordofan as the conflict has deepened. It has transferred its reinforcements across bridges from Omdurman to Khartoum and Khartoum North, the three cities that sit at the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile and make up the wider capital area.

Residents said Tuesday’s fighting in Omdurman was the heaviest for weeks and the army was fending off an RSF attack against a police base as it tried to gain ground.

“There’s been very heavy bombardment for hours, air strikes, artillery and bullets. It’s the first time for us that there have been continuous strikes at this level from every direction,” said Manahel Abbas, a 33-year-old resident of Omdurman’s el-Thawra neighbourhood.

The conflict broke out due to disputes between the army and RSF over an internationally backed plan for a transition to civilian rule, four years after the overthrow of long-ruling leader Omar al-Bashir during a popular uprising.

Saudi Arabia and the United States brokered several ceasefires at talks in Jeddah that were suspended last month after both sides continuously violated the truces.

In a move that could escalate conflict in western Sudan, tribal leaders from South Darfur on Monday declared their allegiance to the RSF. The RSF originated in the Arab militias that helped crush a rebellion in Darfur after 2003. It has since developed into a national and officially recognised force.

Nearly 2.8 million people have been displaced since the start of the fighting, including almost 650,000 who have crossed into neighbouring countries, according to the latest United Nations figures.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies