A battle that is hammering Khartoum and dragging Sudan to the brink of civil war pits the army chief and his regular forces against the streetwise fighters loyal to a former warlord.
Army head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan controls heavy weapons and the airforce, but his soldiers face a irregular force led by the wealthy, one-time militia leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti.
Hemedti’s Rapid Support Forces which analysts say may have 100,000 or more paramilitary fighters, have already proved a tricky opponent, evacuating bases in the capital that have come under attack and melting away into residential areas where heavy armour and conventional military tactics lose any advantage.
With their once uneasy alliance in tatters, the two men are battling to make a killer blow in a power struggle that may instead deliver protracted conflict and more instability, shredding prospects for peace and economic revival in Sudan after decades of autocracy, military rule and international isolation.
Fighting that erupted on Saturday has already killed at least 270 people, injured 2,600, forced dozens of hospitals to close and left residents cowering at home with dwindling supplies.
Hemedti, a school dropout now in his late 40s, began as a camel trader in Darfur. According to Muhammad Saad, a former assistant, he first took up arms after men attacked his trade convoy, killed about 60 people from his extended family and stole his livestock.