Americans were told to stay off the streets of Sudan as rival factions of the country’s own armed forces continuedof the east African nation Monday. The vicious power struggle — with thousands of heavily armed forces clashing on the streets of the capital and other cities since Saturday — was blamed for over 180 deaths by Monday, according to Sudan’s U.N. envoy.
Airstrikes and shelling were causing power cuts and internet outages, blocking transport and forcing thousands of civilians to cower in their homes as a pair of powerful generals led the country further into chaos.
The two factions are led by military commanders who used to be allies. In 2021, Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces, and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the country’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), united toover the country and derailing Sudan’s .
Over the last several months, they turned on each other, and over the weekend their animosity descended into open warfare between the armed forces and the paramilitary RSF, which itself boasts an estimated 100,000 personnel.
American tourist Lakshmi Partha-Sarathy said she “woke up to the sound of gunshots and bombs” in the capital city of Khartoum several days ago, and she’s been trapped there ever since as the fighting has shutting down air travel.
Using her own drone, Partha-Sarathy captured images of smoke rising from Khartoum’s now-closed international airport.
“I don’t think anyone expected this to happen,” said the 32-year-old American software engineer and part-time video creator.
Videos on social media showed smoke smoke rising from a passenger plane that was hit on the tarmac, reportedly causing deaths.
Another video showed people trembling on the floor of the airport terminal, trying to take cover from the fighting outside.
At the heart of the dispute is a breakdown of the power-sharing agreement reached in 2021 by the two commanders, after they united to toppled Sudan’s civilian government. Dagalo wants his RSF to be integrated into the nation’s military over the span of a decade, but al-Burhan wants the assimilation to happen over just two or three years.
Amid the fog of war, both factions claim to have wrested control of vital military installations around country, but despite increasing calls from around the world for a cease-fire, there was no indication Monday that the situation was closer to calming down.
“Gunfire and shelling are everywhere,” Awadeya Mahmoud Koko, who leads a labor union in Sudan’s food industry, told The Associated Press from her home in Khartoum. She said a shell hit one of her neighbor’s homes on Sunday, killing several people, but given the fighting in their neighborhood, they “couldn’t take them to a hospital or bury them.”
“People in Sudan want the military back in the barracks,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “They want democracy.”
The United Nations has also called for an immediate truce. The global body suspended its humanitarian food assistance program in Sudan after three staffers were killed soon after the fighting broke out.
“No aid delivery can move,” Volker Perthes, Sudan’s U.N. envoy, said from Khartoum after the aid workers were killed. A halt could mean millions of hungry Sudanese not receiving food assistance.
As the generals fight for control, Sudan’s civilians are suffering the most. Human rights organizations have warned that people are already running out of food and water after just three days of fighting, and there’s no end in sight.
–Pamela Falk contributed reporting.