KHARTOUM- Gunfire ripped through residential neighbourhoods of Sudan’s capital Khartoum at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr on Friday.
This happened after the army deployed on foot for the first time in its almost week-long fight with a paramilitary force.
Soldiers and gunmen from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces shot at each other in the north, west, and centre of the city, including during the call for special early morning Eid prayers, witnesses said.
The unabated fighting has killed hundreds.
In the absence of a ceasefire, foreign nations including the United States have been unable to evacuate their citizens from Sudan.
International efforts to broker a temporary truce over the three-day holiday and allow civilians to reach safety have so far failed.
Instead, the army appeared to enter a new phase of the battle on the ground, fighting the RSF in residential neighbourhoods, after having stuck largely to air strikes across the capital, with fiercer clashes in central Khartoum.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said on Thursday he saw “no other option but the military solution” to the power struggle with the paramilitary force that erupted into violence last weekend.
The conflict between two previously allied leaders of the ruling military junta, army chief Burhan and RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, risks drawing in Sudan’s neighbours and could play into regional competition between Russia and the United States.
The thud of heavy weaponry could be heard across Khartoum and its Nile sister cities, together with one of Africa’s biggest urban areas.
Army troops brandishing semi-automatic weapons were greeted by cheers on one street, footage released by the military on Friday showed.
Reuters verified the location of the video, in the north of the city, but could not immediately verify when it was filmed.
The World Health Organisation said at least 413 people have already been killed and thousands injured in the conflict, which has tipped Sudan into a humanitarian disaster, with hospitals under attack and up to 20,000 people fleeing into neighbouring Chad.
Thousands more Sudanese fled Khartoum on Friday, moving south to Al Gezira state, or north to River Nile state, with some seeking to go onward to Egypt.
Even before the conflict, about a quarter of Sudan’s people were facing acute hunger, with children especially affected.
The UN World Food Programme halted its Sudan operation, one of its largest, on Saturday after three of its workers were killed.
The violence was triggered by disagreement over an internationally backed plan to form a new civilian government four years after the fall of autocrat Omar al-Bashir to mass protests, and two years after a military coup.
Both sides accuse the other of thwarting the transition. (Reuters/NAN)