At least 25 people were slain in clashes between the main paramilitary group in Sudan and the armed forces on Saturday, according to a group of doctors. The clashes occurred amid the country's halting progress toward elections following a military coup.
According to the Sudanese Doctors' Union, 183 individuals were injured during combat between the military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Uncertain as to whether the victims were civilians.
The group claimed to have documented fatalities at Khartoum's airport and the nearby city of Omdurman, as well as in the western cities of Nyala, El Obeid, and El Fasher.
The RSF claimed to have taken control of the presidential palace, army chief's residence, state television station, and airports in Khartoum, Merowe, El Fasher, and West Darfur state. The military refuted these claims.
On Saturday night, the Sudanese air force advised citizens to remain indoors while it conducted an aerial survey of RSF activity. On Sunday, a holiday was proclaimed in Khartoum state, closing schools, banks, and government offices.
In the capital, gunfire and explosions were audible, and television footage showed smoke rising from several districts, while social media videos captured military aircraft flying low above the city. Witnesses reported gunfire in neighbouring communities.
A Reuters journalist observed cannons and armoured vehicles on the capital's streets and heard intense weapon fire near the army and RSF headquarters.
Army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan told Al Jazeera TV that the RSF should retreat: "We believe that if they are prudent, they will withdraw their forces from Khartoum. But if it persists, we must deploy troops from other regions to Khartoum."
The armed forces stated on Facebook that they would not negotiate with the RSF unless it disbanded. The army instructed soldiers seconded to the RSF to report to adjacent army units, which, if they complied, could deplete RSF ranks.
General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, the commander of the RSF, referred to Burhan as a "criminal" and a "liar." As political factions negotiate to form a transitional government, the military and RSF, which analysts estimate to number 100,000, have competed for authority.
In an interview with the station, he stated, "We know where you are hiding, and we will find you and hand you over to justice, or you will die just like any other dog."
A protracted confrontation between the RSF and the army could plunge Sudan into widespread conflict when the country struggles with economic collapse and tribal violence and derail efforts to move toward elections.
The confrontations result from escalating tensions regarding the RSF's incorporation into the military. The disagreement has delayed signing a transition to a democratic agreement supported by the international community with political parties.
Saturday, a coalition of civilian groups that signed a draft version of this agreement in December called for an immediate cessation of hostilities to prevent Sudan's slide towards "total collapse."
"This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country," they said in a statement. This is an unwinnable war that will demolish our country for all time.
The RSF accused the army of a conspiracy by former strongman President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's loyalists and attempting a coup. Al-Bashir was ousted in a coup in 2019. The country's prime minister was deposed by a rebellion in 2021.
RSF Says Egyptian Troops Safe
Witnesses reported violence in numerous regions outside of the capital. Reuters cites eyewitness accounts of intense exchanges of gunfire in Merowe, northern Sudan.
The RSF shared a video showing, according to them, Egyptian personnel who "surrendered" in Merowe. According to the Egyptian military, the soldiers were in Sudan for joint training with their Sudanese counterparts.
Hemedti told Sky News Arabia that the Egyptians were secure and that the RSF would assist Cairo upon their return.
The video showed men clad in army fatigues speaking to RSF members in the Egyptian Arabic dialect while squatting on the ground. Unconfirmed reports from open-source intelligence analysts indicate that the RSF captured several Egyptian Air Force fighter aircraft and their pilots, Sudanese weapons and military vehicles.
According to eyewitnesses, fighting also broke out between the RSF and the army in the Darfur settlements of El Fasher and Nyala.
The United States, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Nations, the European Union, and the African Union demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities.
The Saudi state news agency reported that the Saudi, American, and United Arab Emirates foreign ministers called for a return to the framework agreement on the transition to democracy following a phone conversation.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a return to dialogue with Burhan and Hemedti, according to Guterres' spokesperson. Egypt's presidency stated that Guterres spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
While Ethiopia and Kenya called for restraint, Chad closed its border with Sudan.
A Saudi Arabian Airlines aircraft was attacked at Khartoum International Airport, the state-owned airline announced, suspending flights to and from Sudan. Egyptair, the national airline of Egypt, has announced a 72-hour suspension of flights to Khartoum. Social media video depicted terrified Khartoum airport passengers crouching on the floor and a devastated United Nations aircraft on the tarmac.