Sudan’s RSF branded a rebellious group as struggle for power remains on going

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Sudan’s army chief on Monday branded the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) a rebellious group and ordered it be dissolved, the foreign ministry said, as the faction battled the army in the capital and across the country.

The order follows a violent power struggle that has killed at least 97 civilians and injured 365 since the fighting started early on Saturday, according to a toll published by the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, an activist group. The government has not published a toll.

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Bombardments and airstrikes rocked Khartoum on Monday, including near the military headquarters, and in Bahri just across the Nile River near another base, witnesses in the areas said. Smoke billowed from the runway of the capital’s international airport, where explosions and fires were visible on TV images.

The rare outbreak of violence in the capital has also spread to other parts of Sudan, pitting the armed forces against the RSF, a former militia that had been due to merge with the army and whose leaders shared power in a ruling military council.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan heads the ruling council while RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, is his deputy. Both sides said they had made gains on Monday.

A protracted power struggle raises the risk of Sudan falling into civil war four years after long-ruling Omar al-Bashir was toppled in an uprising, as well as derailing an internationally-backed framework deal to launch a civilian transition that was due to be signed earlier this month.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said an immediate ceasefire was needed, saying that view was shared by the international community.

“There is a shared deep concern about the fighting, violence that’s going on in Sudan - the threat that that poses to civilians, that it poses to the Sudanese nation and potentially poses even to the region,” Blinken said in Japan.

Troops in neighborhoods

Social media users reported heavy gunfire and artillery across Khartoum and there were some reports of firing in the city of Omdurman, which lies across the Nile from Khartoum.

Overnight, residents reported the boom of artillery and roar of warplanes in the Kafouri district of Bahri, which has an RSF base and also adjoins Khartoum.

By Sunday it appeared that the army was gaining the upper hand in the fighting in Khartoum, using air strikes to pound RSF bases.

Witnesses and residents say a major problem has been posed by thousands of heavily armed RSF members deployed inside neighborhoods of Khartoum and other cities.

The violence comes during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

Burhan and Hemedti agreed a three-hour pause in fighting on Sunday from 4 p.m. local time (1400 GMT to 1700 GMT) to allow humanitarian evacuations proposed by the United Nations, the UN mission in Sudan said, but the deal was widely ignored after a brief period of relative calm.

The armed forces have said they would not negotiate with the RSF unless the force is dissolved, while RSF leader Hemedti, on Saturday called military chief Burhan a “criminal” and a “liar.”

Efforts by neighbors and regional bodies to end the violence intensified on Sunday.

Egypt offered to mediate, and regional African bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development plans to send the presidents of Kenya, South Sudan and Djibouti to Sudan as soon as possible to reconcile the groups in conflict, Kenyan President William Ruto’s office said on Twitter.

The UN World Food Program said on Sunday it had temporarily halted all operations in hunger-stricken areas of Sudan after three Sudanese employees were killed during fighting in North Darfur and a WFP plane was hit during a gun battle at Khartoum airport.

Sudan has been affected by rising levels of hunger in recent years as an economic crisis has deepened. The WFP says it reached 9.3 million people in Sudan, one of its largest operations globally.

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