Sudanese army forces blasted paramilitary bases with artillery in Khartoum on Wednesday after pulling out of US and Saudi-brokered ceasefire talks, accusing their paramilitary foes of failing to honour their commitments.
Mediators have blamed both sides for violating the truce which was supposed to enable secure corridors for delivering aid to an increasingly needy population.
In both the north and south of the capital, key bases of commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) came under attack by troops loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, residents told AFP.
A witness said there was “heavy artillery fire from army camps” in northern Khartoum, on the 47th day of a war that researchers said has claimed at least 1,800 lives.
Another witness reported “artillery blasts on the RSF camp in al Salha” in southern Khartoum — the largest paramilitary base and arsenal stock in the capital.
The attacks came two days after United States and Saudi mediators said the warring parties had agreed to extend by five days the initial week-long humanitarian truce.
The mediators of the talks, in the Saudi city of Jeddah, acknowledged repeated breaches but have held off imposing any sanctions.
‘Fight until victory’
The army walked out “because the rebels have never implemented a single one of the provisions of a short-term ceasefire which required their withdrawal from hospitals and residential buildings”, a Sudanese government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.
The mediators admitted the truce had been “imperfectly observed” but said the extension “will permit further humanitarian efforts”.
Despite repeated pledges from both sides, fighting has flared this week both in greater Khartoum and in the western region of Darfur.
“The army is ready to fight until victory,” Burhan declared during a visit to troops in the capital.
The RSF, led by Burhan’s deputy-turned-foe Daglo, said they would “exercise their right to defend themselves” and accused the army of violating the truce.
Sudan specialist Aly Verjee said the mediators had been eager to avoid a complete breakdown of the talks, for fear of a major escalation on the ground.
“The mediators know that the situation is bad,” but were hoping for “arrangements that are better respected,” Verjee, a researcher at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, said before the army’s withdrawal from the talks.
Snipers, air strikes
On Sunday, the mediators said both forces had disrupted humanitarian efforts, including through the presence of snipers near hospitals in RSF-controlled territory, and army “elements” stealing medical supplies.
They said RSF occupied “civilian homes, private businesses, and public buildings”, some of which were looted, while Sudanese Armed Forces has flown military aircraft daily during the ceasefire, “including a confirmed airstrike on May 27 in Khartoum that reportedly killed two people.”
African Union spokesman Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt told AFP on Wednesday that the army’s walking out “should not discourage the United States and Saudi Arabia”.
Since fighting erupted between the rival security forces on April 15, more than 1,800 people have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
The United Nations (UN) says 1.2 million people have been internally displaced and more than 425,000 have fled to neighbouring countries.
More than half the population — 25 million people — are now in need of aid and protection, the UN says.
Entire districts of Khartoum no longer have running water, electricity is only available for a few hours a week, and three quarters of hospitals in combat zones are out of service.
The health ministry said on Wednesday that “nine health facilities” had gone out of service in Jazira state, just south of Khartoum, “despite the declared truce”.
The ministry blamed the closures on “the presence of RSF militias threatening the movement of medical personnel and supplies”.
Hundreds have been killed in Darfur, on Sudan’s western border with Chad, where continued fighting “blatantly disregards ceasefire commitments”, Toby Harward, of the UN refugee agency, said earlier.
Despite the increasing needs, the UN says it has only received 13 per cent of the $2.6 billion it requires.