KHARTOUM: Air strikes and explosions hammered Sudan’s capital on Wednesday after the failure of a U.S.-brokered ceasefire between the army and paramilitary forces, forcing residents to stay hunkered down and Japan to prepare to evacuate its citizens.
Continuous bombardments and loud blasts could be heard in central Khartoum in the area around the defence ministry compound and the airport, which has been fiercely contested and put out of action since fighting erupted at the weekend.
Thick smoke billowed into the sky.
Foreign powers including the United States have been pushing for a ceasefire between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to allow residents trapped by the fighting to obtain desperately needed relief and supplies.
Both sides indicated they had agreed to the ceasefire from 6pm (1600 GMT) local time on Tuesday but firing was unabated and the army and the RSF issued statements accusing each other of failing to respect the truce.
The army’s high command said it would continue operations to secure the capital and other regions.
One resident in the eastern edges of Khartoum said that after air strikes and artillery near her home a day earlier, heavy fighting resumed early on Wednesday morning before subsiding again.
“We couldn’t sleep, the only quiet was from 3 to 5am,” she said.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary said authorities were planning to use a plane from its military Self-Defense Forces for the evacuation of about 60 Japanese citizens currently in Sudan, in coordination with other major countries.
Since Saturday morning and for the first time in decades heavy fighting has torn across Sudan’s capital, which consists of Khartoum and its sister cities Omdurman and Bahri that lie across the White and Blue Niles.
The battle has derailed the latest internationally backed plan for a transition to a civilian democracy, four years after the fall of Islamist autocrat Omar Al Bashir and two years after a military coup.
Nearly people have been killed in violence also risks drawing in actors from Sudan’s neighbourhood who have backed different factions, and could play into competition for regional influence between Russia and the United States.
Widespread power cuts and water cuts caused by the fighting have left residents struggling in the final days of Ramadan, and put most hospitals and out of service.
Khartoum residents were asked to limit their electricity usage, as the state’s distribution authority said the servers that manage online purchases of power had gone out of service.
The area the servers are located in was too dangerous for engineers to get to, it said in a statement.
Offices and schools have been shut in the capital since the fighting began, there have been widespread reports of looting and assault, and long queues have been forming at bakeries that are still functioning.
“Most goods aren’t available. People are looking for things but they can’t find them,” said one resident in Bahri who gave only his first name, Mohammad.
United Nations agencies say many of their programmes across the vast country, already in a precarious humanitarian situation, have been suspended.
Many residents planned to travel south to rural areas of Khartoum state or Gezira state if the ceasefire had held.
Ahmad Omar, a communications coordinator at the Norweigan Refugee Council (NRC) based in Al Qadarif in eastern Sudan, had hoped to come to Khartoum visit his parents for the end of Ramadan, but clashes prevented that.
“We were all hopeful that peace was upcoming, and a government would be formed,” he said. “They dashed all the dreams of the Sudanese youths and the Sudanese revolution.”
The outbreak of fighting pitting Sudan’s military leader General Abdul Fattah Al Burhan against RSF chief General Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, followed rising tensions over a plan for the RSF’s integration into the regular military.
Burhan heads a ruling council installed after the 2021 military coup and the 2019 ouster of Bashir, while Dagalo - better known as Hemedti - is his deputy on the ruling council.
Discord over the timetable for that process delayed the signing of the framework deal to launch a civilian transition that was due to be signed earlier this month.