Sudan woke up to heavy clashes between the army and a powerful paramilitary force known as the Rapid Support Forces on Saturday. The two rivals have long competed for relevance and power, but an internationally backed political process launched last year exacerbated tensions between them, analysts and activists say.
Civilians in the capital of Khartoum reported seeing armoured vehicles from both forces roaming the streets, while hearing heavy gunfire in multiple urban quarters.
The RSF said it has taken control of the presidential palace and Khartoum International Airport, which could not be confirmed. The group also said it has seized Merowe Airport, which houses Sudanese and Egyptian fighter planes. Sudan’s army chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan denied the RSF’s claims.
Al Jazeera was not able to verify the claims and the situation on the ground remained unclear. Witnesses sighted fighter planes in the air, presumably from the army since the RSF does not have an aerial arsenal.
“Planes are literally flying over our house. We can hear shooting everywhere,” Dania Atabani, a Sudanese activist, told Al Jazeera from Khartoum.
A doctors’ group said at least three civilians were killed as the fighting escalated, including two at the Khartoum airport and one in North Kordofan state.
Not long ago, the RSF and the military cooperated to derail Sudan’s transition to democracy by spearheading a coup on October 25, 2021. The move triggered a year of anti-coup protests and international pressure, prompting both forces to sign the Framework Agreement on December 5.