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Sudan paramilitary chief vows to fight on until all army bases captured

Army soldiers deploy in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on April 15, 2023, amid reported clashes in the city. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's paramilitary commander has vowed to continue fighting until "all army bases are captured," amid a flare-up of violence between the army and the powerful paramilitary force in the crisis-hit African country.

"We will not stop fighting until we capture all the army bases and the honorable members of the armed forces join us," Mohamed Hamdan Daglo said on Saturday.

His comments came after fierce clashes erupted between the army and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the capital, Khartoum, earlier in the day.

The RSF later said its fighters had wrested control of several key sites, including the presidential palace, the residence of army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Khartoum International Airport.

The RSF, which accused the army of attacking them first, also said they had taken over the airports in the northern city of Merowe and in El-Obeid in the west.

The Sudanese army denied that the RSF had taken Merowe airport, saying it is fighting back at sites the paramilitaries said they had taken.

Burhan also claimed that the army is in control of the presidential palace, military headquarters, and airport.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese army said that the air force is conducting operations to confront RSF fighters.

Fierce exchanges of gunfire as well as massive explosions hit the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Saturday as columns of smoke bellowed from various places and soldiers were deployed on the streets.

Cannon and armored vehicles were deployed in the streets of the capital and heavy weapons fire could be heard near the headquarters of both the army and RSF, Reuters reported.

Doctors said clashes had occurred in residential neighborhoods and at least three civilians had been killed.

Eyewitnesses told Reuters that clashes had erupted between the RSF and army in el-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, and in Niyala, the capital of South Darfur state.

Heavy gunfire could be heard in several parts of Khartoum as well as in adjoining cities, including Merowe, according to witnesses.

Clashes were also taking place at the headquarters of Sudan’s state TV, an anchor who appeared on the screen briefly said.

The ongoing violence in Sudan has caused great concern, with many countries in the world urging the opposing sides to show restraint and engage in dialogue to end the hostilities.

Sudan is still ruled by Burhan, the military leader who seized power in an October 2021 coup, aborting the transition to civilian rule agreed upon after the 2019 overthrow of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir.

A new delay to the signing of a deal to restore the transition, which had been rescheduled for Thursday, prompted the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) to call for nationwide protests instead.

The FFC urged Sudanese people to demonstrate after several high-ranking officials from the Bashir era found roles in the current administration.

Cracks have emerged within the military over security reforms proposed as part of the deal with the FFC. The sticking point has been the integration into the regular army of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Burhan's deputy Daglo.

The two have been at loggerheads over the timetable for the RSF's integration. Created in 2013, the RSF emerged from the Janjaweed that Bashir unleashed a decade earlier against non-Arab ethnic groups in the western region of Darfur. The militia has since been accused of war crimes.

The worsening state of Sudan's economy has also put pressure on all sides to reach a deal.

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