Sudanese paramilitary claims control of key buildings in ‘coup bid’

Published April 16, 2023
Smoke rises in Omdurman, near Halfaya Bridge, during clashes between the Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army as seen from Khartoum North, Sudan. — Reuters
Smoke rises in Omdurman, near Halfaya Bridge, during clashes between the Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army as seen from Khartoum North, Sudan. — Reuters

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s main paramilitary group has said it has seized the presidential palace, the army chief’s residence and Khartoum international airport on Saturday in an apparent coup attempt, but the military said it was fighting back.

While major confrontation between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army could plunge Sudan into widespread civil conflict as it struggles with economic breakdown and tribal violence, international powers — the US, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, as well as United Nations and European Union — called for immediate ceasefire and an end to the hostilities.

The RSF, which accused the army of attacking them first, claimed to have taken over the airports in the northern city of Merowe and in El-Obeid in the west.

However, the ground situation was unclear, as the army said it was fighting the RSF at sites the paramilitaries said they had taken, denying that the RSF had taken Merowe airport.

The RSF accused the army of carrying out a plot by loyalists of ousted president Omar Hassan al-Bashir and attempting a coup itself.

The Sudanese air force is conducting operations against the RSF, the army said. Footage from broadcasters showed a military aircraft in the sky above Khartoum, but Reuters could not independently confirm the material.

Gunfire could be heard in several parts of Khartoum and eyewitnesses reporting shooting in adjoining cities.

Calls for ceasefire

US Ambassador to Sudan, John Godfrey, said the escalation of tensions to direct fighting was “extremely dangerous”. He and embassy staff were sheltering in place.

Secretary Antony Blinken said he was deeply concerned about reports of escalating violence between the Sudanese armed forces and the country’s main paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces, and called for an immediate end to hostilities.

“We are in touch with the Embassy team in Khartoum — all are currently accounted for,” Blinken wrote on Twitter. “We urge all actors to stop the violence immediately and avoid further escalations or troop mobilizations and continue talks to resolve outstanding issues.”

Calling for a ceasefire, Russia said it was deeply concerned by escalating violence in Sudan. “We urge the parties to the conflict to demonstrate political will and restraint and to take immediate steps towards a ceasefire,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2023

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