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Air strikes, artillery fire escalate as factions battle in Sudan capital

A screen grab shows black smoke and fire at Omdurman market in Omdurman, Sudan. — Reuters
A screen grab shows black smoke and fire at Omdurman market in Omdurman, Sudan. — Reuters

DUBAI: Air strikes and artillery fire intensified sharply across Sudan's capital early on Tuesday, residents said, as the army sought to defend key bases from paramilitary rivals it has been fighting for more than a month.

The air strikes, explosions and clashes could be heard in the south of Khartoum, and there was heavy shelling across the River Nile in parts of the adjoining cities of Bahri and Omdurman, witnesses said.

It has caused a humanitarian crisis that threatens to destabilise the region, displacing more than 700,000 people inside Sudan and forcing about 200,000 to flee into neighbouring countries.

Those who have remained in the capital are struggling to survive as food supplies dwindle, health services collapse and lawlessness spreads.

Officials have recorded 676 deaths and more than 5,500 injuries, but the real toll is expected to be far higher with many reports of bodies left in the streets and people struggling to bury the dead.

Fighting has surged both in Khartoum and in Geneina, capital of West Darfur, since the two warring parties began talks in Jeddah brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States more than a week ago.

The talks have produced a statement of principles about providing access for aid supplies and protecting civilians, but mechanisms for setting up humanitarian corridors and agreeing to a ceasefire are still being discussed.

Both sides had previously announced several ceasefires, none of which stopped the fighting.

The army has relied largely on air strikes and shelling, only occasionally engaging in ground fighting, as it seeks to push back RSF forces that took up positions in neighbourhoods across Khartoum soon after the fighting erupted on April 15.

The RSF attacked major military bases in northern Omdurman and southern Khartoum on Tuesday in an apparent attempt to prevent the army from deploying heavy weaponry and fighter jets, residents and witnesses said.

The RSF also said in a statement that it had captured hundreds of army troops in a counter attack in Bahri, releasing a video of rows of men in uniform sitting on the ground as RSF fighters celebrated around them. Reuters could not immediately verify the claim, which the army denied.

The army has been trying to cut off RSF supply lines from outside the capital and to secure strategic sites including the airport in central Khartoum and the major Al Jaili oil refinery in Bahri, where fighting flared again on Tuesday. — Reuters

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