Explosions shook Sudan’s capital Tuesday evening despite claims of a ceasefire on the fourth day of fighting that has killed nearly 200.
A weeks-long power struggle erupted into battles Saturday between the forces of two generals who seized power in a 2021 coup: army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Since then, international calls have mounted for an end to hostilities that have spawned increasing lawlessness, death and damage.
After international mediation, RSF commander Daglo, commonly known as Hemeti, said he would support a 24-hour “armistice”, which the army denied any knowledge of before later blaming the RSF for breaking it.
The RSF had already accused the army of violating the agreement.
By 1600 GMT, the time of the supposed start to the ceasefire, gunfire could still be heard throughout the capital Khartoum, according to several witnesses, and it continued into the evening.
“As of now the fighting in Sudan, including Khartoum and various other locations, is continuing. No sign of real abatement of the fighting,” the spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
Daglo’s announcement came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke with the two generals and “underscored the urgent need for a ceasefire”.
Foreign ministers of the G7, which includes the US, had also called on Tuesday for the warring parties to “end hostilities immediately”, as loud explosions were heard in Khartoum, where militiamen in turbans and fatigues roamed the streets.
Blinken also discussed with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan ways to “stop military escalation, ending violence, and calming tensions” in Sudan.
Underscoring the chaos, Washington said one of its diplomatic convoys was fired upon, and the EU said its ambassador was attacked at home.
Aid groups have reported looting of medical and other supplies.
There are fears of regional spillover from the conflict that has included air strikes and artillery fire.
According to witnesses, pickup trucks carrying anti-aircraft guns—stationed in residential areas of Khartoum—were resupplied with ammunition Tuesday morning.
Office and residential buildings in the city have been left with shattered windows and facades riddled with bullets.
Terrified residents of the capital are spending the holiest final days of Ramadan sheltering as tanks roll through the streets, buildings shake, and smoke from fires triggered by the fighting hangs in the air.
Others are fleeing
“We haven’t slept in the past four days,” Khartoum resident Dallia Mohamed Abdelmoniem said, adding her family had been staying indoors “trying to keep our sanity intact”.
Families waited on Tuesday, heavy suitcases in hand, for the few buses heading south from the capital, according to AFP reporters, as more people use rare lulls in the fighting to escape Khartoum.
Many have lost power and internet connections, and when they do get online—searching for accurate news about attacks, reported looting, how safe it is to move and what pharmacies are still open—they face proliferating misinformation on social media.
The latest toll is at least 185 people killed and more than 1,800 injured, according to the UN.
The true number is thought to be far higher, with many wounded unable to reach hospitals, which are themselves being shelled, according to the official doctors’ union.
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus condemned “disturbing reports of some health facilities being looted and others being used for military purposes.”
Civilians are running out of food as the few grocery stores that remain open have been unable to replenish dwindling stocks.
The fighting has damaged aircraft and brought a halt to flights to and from Khartoum airport.
Satellite photos show damaged warplanes at the airports in Merowe and El Obeid.
The Red Cross and WHO stressed Tuesday the need for humanitarian aid corridors.
Both generals have positioned themselves as saviours of Sudan and guardians of democracy—in a country which has known only brief democratic interludes.
The 2021 coup which the generals orchestrated derailed a transition to civilian rule.
Political scientist Amr al-Shobaki linked the current situation to mistakes by both longtime strongman Omar al-Bashir, ousted in 2019, and the transition period which followed. They should have dealt with unification of the armed forces, the Egyptian analyst said.
“Civilians wanted to dismantle the old regime, but in four years what was dismantled instead were the political powers and the military itself,” he told AFP.
The Forces of Freedom and Change, the main civilian bloc ousted from power in the 2021 coup, rejected “the total war the generals have unleashed to destroy everything in their path”.
The battles that began Saturday followed bitter disagreements between Burhan and Daglo over the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army—a key condition for a final deal aimed at resuming the democratic transition.
Both claim to be in control of key sites, including the airport and the presidential palace—none of which could be independently verified.
A number of organisations have temporarily suspended operations in the country, where one-third of the population needs aid and three UN World Food Programme staff are among the dead.
Influential northern neighbour Egypt said it had discussed with Saudi Arabia, South Sudan and Djibouti—all close allies of Sudan—“the need to make every effort to preserve stability and safety”.