Battles rage at Sudan’s military facility site

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Sudanese army soldiers and paramilitaries fought for control of a military facility Thursday in Khartoum where a fire raged at an oil and gas facility, witnesses said.

The battles came a day after the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) announced in a statement they had wrestled “full control" of the Yarmouk weapons manufacturing and arms depot complex.

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Witnesses speaking to AFP from southern Khartoum said they heard the “sound of gunfire and clashes” around the complex, the most important military industrial facility in the country.

The RSF claimed that soldiers had fled the site, leaving behind large quantities of military equipment and vehicles.

The paramilitaries also posted videos online purportedly showing their fighters inside the facility, celebrating. Weapons, including machine guns, and large quantities of ammunition could be seen in the background.

Sudan has been embroiled in a deadly conflict since mid-April, when fighting erupted between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan against his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo -- commonly known as Hemedti-- who commands the RSF.

Violence has spread across the country, most notably in the western region of Darfur, which is home to around a quarter of Sudan’s population and has never recovered from a devastating two-decade war that left hundreds of thousands dead and more than two million displaced.

The fire at the al-Shajara oil and gas facility near Yarmouk broke out overnight Wednesday to Thursday, witnesses said.

It was not immediately clear what started the fire but residents said they heard a loud explosion at the facility, around which fierce fighting has been underway for the past couple of days.

Plumes of smoke still rose from the site on Thursday morning and could be seen from as far as 10 kilometers (six miles) away.

Since fighting broke out in Sudan on April 15, more than 1,800 people have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Nearly two million people have been displaced by the conflict, according to the latest UN figures, including 476,000 who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

Talks mediated by Saudi Arabia and the United States broke down, and multiple ceasefires have failed to take hold.

Last week, Washington slapped sanctions on the warring generals accusing both sides for the “appalling bloodshed” after the latest truce collapsed and the army pulled out of ceasefire talks altogether.

In October 2012, Sudan accused Israel of being behind a blast at the Yarmouk facility, leading to speculation that Iranian weapons were stored or manufactured there.

Israel at that time refused to comment on Sudan’s accusation.

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