A Sudanese doctors’ group said at least three people were killed and dozens more injured in clashes that started Saturday between the country’s army and powerful paramilitary.
The fighting comes after months of escalating tensions between the generals and years of political unrest after an October 2021 military coup.
In a statement, the Sudan Doctors’ Committee said two civilians were killed at the country’s airport and another man was shot to death in the state of North Kordofan. The statement did not specify how the two people had died at the airport, which was a flashpoint in the recent violence, with the two forces battling to control it.
The group added that dozens more were injured around the country, with some in unstable condition. The clashes began Saturday morning, with both sides blaming the other for initiating the violence.
The clashes came as tensions between the military and the RSF have escalated in recent months, forcing a delay in the signing of an internationally backed deal with political parties to revive the country’s democratic transition.
Saudi Arabia’s national airline said one of its Airbus A330s was involved in “an accident” after video showed it on fire on the tarmac at Khartoum International Airport amid the fighting.
Saudia said in a statement Saturday that all its flights were suspended after the incident. It did not elaborate on the cause of the “accident” though it appeared the aircraft got caught in the crossfire of the Rapid Support Forces and Sudanese soldiers fighting around the airfield.
Another plane also appeared to have caught fire in the attack. Flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 identified it as a SkyUp Airlines 737. SkyUp is a Kyiv, Ukraine-based airline. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other commercial aircraft trying to land at the airport began turning around to head back to their originating airport.
Tensions between the army and the paramilitary stem from a disagreement over how the RSF, headed by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, should be integrated into the military and what authority should oversee the process. The merger is a key condition of Sudan’s unsigned transition agreement.
However, the army-RSF rivalry dates back to the rule of autocratic former president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in 2019. Under al-Bashir, the paramilitary force grew out of former militias known as janjaweed that carried out a brutal crackdown in Sudan’s Darfur region during the decades of conflict there.
In a rare televised speech Thursday, a top army general warned of potential clashes with paramilitary forces, accusing it of deploying forces in Khartoum and other areas of Sudan without the army’s consent. The RSF defended the presence of its forces in an earlier statement.
The RSF recently deployed troops near Merowe. Also, videos that circulated on social media Thursday showed what appeared to be RSF-armed vehicles being transported into Khartoum, farther to the south.
According to a statement issued by the Sudan Doctors Committee — a part of the country’s pro-democracy movement — clashes have led to “varying injuries.” The military also said the fighting resulted in a number of casualties but provided no further details.
The U.S. Ambassador to Sudan, John Godfrey, wrote online that he was “currently sheltering in place with the Embassy team, as Sudanese throughout Khartoum and elsewhere are doing.”
“Escalation of tensions within the military component to direct fighting is extremely dangerous,” Godfrey wrote. “I urgently call on senior military leaders to stop the fighting.”