( Middle East Monitor ) – Clashes erupted Saturday between the conventional Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), formerly known as the Janjaweed militias, in the capital Khartoum. The RSF had been deployed in 2019 by the military junta against the civilian revolutionary movement that overthrew dictator and war criminal Omar al-Bashir.
After 2019 a joint military and civilian council had been ruling Sudan in preparation for a hoped-for transition to a democratic republic, but regular army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is seen by the civilian leadership as dragging his feet on the next change and of acting in an authoritarian manner. In October 2021 al-Burhan dismissed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his civilian government. Last December, the military and the civilian leadership reached a new accord, which was supposed to be finalized in early April but so far no final agreement has been reached.
Gunfire and bombs were heard near the army headquarters and presidential palace, according to an Anadolu reporter in Khartoum.
In a statement, the RSF accused the army of attacking its forces south of Khartoum with light and heavy weapons. The paramilitary force called the army’s action a “brutal assault”, saying it had informed local and international mediators of the developments.
The RSF also claimed that its forces had taken control of Khartoum airport, presidential palace, the residence of the army chief and Merowe military base in northern Sudan.
RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, claimed that his forces have taken the Khartoum airport and the presidential palace.
Speaking to the Doha-based Al Jazeera television, Hemedti described army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as a criminal and corrupt who killed the Sudanese people, vowing to end this war in the coming few days.
Hemedti is al-Burhan’s deputy in the ruling Transitional Sovereign Council in Sudan.
For its part, the Sudanese army accused the RSF fighters of attempting to attack its forces south of Khartoum.
“The rebel RSF spreads lies about our forces attacking them, to cover up their rebellious behavior,” the statement said, declaring the paramilitary force a “rebel” group.
According to eyewitnesses, the Sudanese army carried out airstrikes on RSF bases in the capital Khartoum.
Witnesses said military warplanes struck RSF bases in Riyahd and Bahri neighborhood east and north of Khartoum.
The Sudanese army also denied the RSF claim of taking major sites in the capital, saying its forces had confronted the RSF attacks against the presidential palace, Khartoum airport and al-Burhan’s residence.
Local medics said three civilians were killed in the clashes between the army and RSF forces.
In a statement, the Sudan Doctors Committee said two people were killed in the fighting at Khartoum airport, while a third was killed in El-Obeid city, south of Khartoum.
Nine people, including an army officer, were also injured in the violence.
The dispute between the two sides came to the surface on Thursday when the army said recent movements by the RSF had happened without coordination and were illegal, with their rift centering around a proposed transition to civilian rule.
Sudan has been without a functioning government since October 2021 when the military dismissed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s transitional government and declared a state of emergency.
Last December, Sudan’s military and political forces signed a framework agreement to resolve the months-long crisis.
The signing of the final agreement was scheduled to take place on April 6, but was delayed. No date has been announced for the signing of the deal.
Sudan’s transitional period which started in August 2019 was scheduled to end with elections in early 2024.