An air raid on a Sudanese city has killed at least 22 people, health authorities said, in one of the deadliest attacks yet in the weeks-long fighting between Sudan’s army and a renegade paramilitary force.
The raid took place on Saturday in a residential area of Omdurman, the neighbouring city of the capital Khartoum, according to a statement by the health ministry.
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The attack, which wounded an unspecified number of people, drew immediate condemnation from the United Nations.
It was one of the deadliest of the clashes in urban areas in the capital and elsewhere between the military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Last month, an air raid killed at least 17 people, including five children, in Khartoum.
The RSF, which said the attack killed 31 civilians, blamed the army for attacking residential areas in Omdurman where fighting has raged between the warring factions. The military reportedly attempted to cut off a crucial supply line.
The RSF “vehemently condemn the deliberate air strikes conducted by the extremist terrorist militia led by [army chief Abdel Fattah] al-Burhan”, the group said in a statement.
“This heinous attack, orchestrated by the Sudanese Armed Forces [SAF] with the support of remnants from the former regime … has resulted in the tragic loss of more than 31 lives and numerous civilian injuries,” it added.
A spokesman for the military was not immediately available for comment.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack, according to a statement released by his spokesman early on Sunday, and urged the Sudanese army and the RSF to end hostilities.
“The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned that the ongoing war between the armed forces has pushed Sudan to the brink of a full-scale civil war, potentially destabilising the entire region,” the statement said.
“He reiterates his call for the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces to cease fighting and commit to a durable cessation of hostilities. He also urges these parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians and to enable humanitarian action,” it added.
Two Omdurman residents said it was difficult to determine which side was responsible for the attack. They said the army’s aircraft have repeatedly attacked RSF troops in the area and the paramilitary force has used drones and anti-aircraft weapons against the military.
At the time of the attack early on Saturday, the army was hitting the RSF, which used people’s houses as shields, and the RSF fired anti-aircraft rounds at the attacking warplanes, said Abdel-Rahman, one resident who gave only his first name.
Fighting has focused on Omdurman in recent days as the western part of the city is a key supply route for the RSF to bring reinforcements in from Darfur, its power base.
Attacks have also centred on the country’s state broadcasting complex in eastern Omdurman. Other overnight raids hit southern and eastern Khartoum.
At least 1,133 people have been killed in the fighting that began on April 15, according to the health ministry. More than 2.9 million people have been uprooted, including nearly 700,000 who fled to neighbouring countries.
The fighting threatens to drag the country into a wider civil war, drawing in other internal and external actors in the East African nation that lies between the Horn of Africa, Sahel, and the Red Sea.
The conflict broke out after months of increasing tensions between the leaders of the military and the RSF.
The fighting has also caused “alarming numbers” of rape and abduction of women and girls, according to aid agencies.
Several ceasefire agreements brokered by Saudi and United States mediators between the warring rivals failed to end violence in the country.
Sudan has been without a functioning government since September 2021, when the military dismissed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s transitional government and declared a state of emergency, in a move decried by political forces as a “coup”.
The transitional period, which started in August 2019 after the removal of former President Omar al-Bashir, had been scheduled to end with elections in early 2024.