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Sudan updates: Death toll rises as fighting continues

Published April 17, 2023last updated April 17, 2023

Gunfire and explosions could be heard in Khartoum on Monday as fighting continues between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Doctors said the death toll has continued to climb. Follow DW for the latest.

Smoke billows above residential buildings in Khartoum
Violence erupted in Sudan early on April 15 after weeks of deepening tensions between the head of the army and his deputyImage: AFP

At least 185 people have been killed in Sudan as the death toll rises from fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary, according to the UN.

The UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, added that more than 1,800 have been wounded in the fighting.

A previous death toll by the Sudan Doctors' Syndicate put the number of deaths at below 100 on Monday morning but warned many people are unable to reach hospitals amid the clashes.

A separate pro-democracy organization, the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, said at least 942 civilians and soldiers had been wounded.

Sudan's capital, Khartoum, continued to be rocked by gunfire, loud explosions and airstrikes on Monday.

Residents also reported power outages and cases of looting.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the conflict in Sudan on Monday, April 17:

No US evacuation plan as of yet — John Kirby

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said that there were no plans for a US government evacuation from Sudan at this time.

"We urge American citizens in Sudan to treat this situation with the utmost seriousness," Kirby said in a briefing with reporters.

Kirby cited a State Department security alert for Sudan issued on Sunday which said that there were no plans for an evacuation due to the "uncertain security situation in Khartoum and closure of the airport."

US citizens in Khartoum and surroundings who were interested in evacuating were notified that they could register their interest via email.

Sunday's alert advised US citizens to remain indoors.

EU ambassador to Sudan assaulted at home

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the bloc's ambassador to Sudan had been assaulted in their home.

"This constitutes a gross violation of the Vienna Convention. Security of diplomatic premises and staff is a primary responsibility of Sudanese authorities and an obligation under international law," Borrell said in a tweet.

Borrell had earlier said that civilians "urgently need a ceasefire in order to be safe and allow space for mediation."

"The EU is working to persuade each side to consider humanitarian pause and to encourage dialogue," Borrell added.

The EU's ambassador to Sudan is veteran Irish diplomat Aidan O'Hara. EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali told AFP news agency that he was "OK" following the assault.

"The security of the staff is our priority," she said. "The EU delegation has not been evacuated. Security measures are being assessed."

UN envoy: two sides 'not giving impression' they want peace

The UN envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, told reporters in New York that neither of the two sides in the clashes in Sudan seemed to be requesting external mediation.

"The two sides who are fighting are not giving the impression that they want mediation for a peace between them right away," he said.

However, Perthes said that the leaders of rival factions had reacted "positively" to his phone calls.

"It's a very fluid situation so it's very difficult to say where the balance is shifting to," said Volker Perthes.

The UN envoy said that the organization will continue efforts for humanitarian pauses to the fighting, with the aim of eventually pushing for a "more structured cease-fire."

Presidents Ruto, Kiir, Guelleh sent as mediators

Three East Africa presidents are planning to travel to Sudan as mediators in a bid to solve the conflict, according to the government in Nairobi. 

Kenya's President William Ruto, Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir will arrive in Khartoum "at the earliest time possible," the Kenyan government said overnight after an emergency meeting. 

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) said the presidents would "engage the two leaders to resume negotiations on all outstanding issues including security and military reform." It also called on its members to use their contacts to reach out to both the Sudanese military and the RSF. 

IGAD is an eight-country trading bloc in eastern Africa including Sudan and headquartered in Djibouti.

Army chief moves to dissolve RSF

The head of Sudan's army, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, ordered the dissolution of the RSF paramilitary on Monday, the country's Foreign Ministry said.

The RSF emerged in 2013 from the Janjaweed militias that fought on behalf of the former Sudanese government in Darfur. It had been recognized as an independent security force and its leader served as Burhan's deputy in the military junta.

The army and the RSF have been fighting since Saturday amid a longrunning power struggle between their two leaders.

Burhan also branded the RSF as a rebellious group, the Foreign Ministry said, after the RSF accused the army of being "radical Islamists."

Sudan: Air strikes and street battles continue for 3rd day

Germany calls on both sides to end conflict

Germany's Foreign Office has called for both sides in Sudan to end the conflict.

On Monday, a spokesperson said a crisis committee had convened and is following the situation closely.

In Khartoum, Christine-Felice Röhrs from German charity, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, told DW that civilians have been caught in the crossfire.

"This remains extremely worrying, of course, because this is still some sort of urban warfare with little regard to the lives of millions of civilians in this biggest city of the country," she said.

"And the fighting is playing out in front of people's yards in roads where kids go to school, on squares where people would shop. But nearly all of the normal life is halted at the moment."

Röhrs was skeptical about claims made by the army and the RSF.

"If you are looking at what the warring parties are putting out, this is mostly propaganda," she said. "It's about who has won what. And this is very often contradicted in the next minute by the other side."  

Fighting rages in Sudan: Patrick Oyet reports

RSF leader asks international community to intervene

Mohamed Hamdan Daglo — the head of the RSF who is more commonly known as Hemeti — blamed three days of clashes on army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

"His army is waging a brutal campaign against innocent people, bombing them with MiGs," Hemeti said in a statement on Twitter.

"Our actions are merely a response to the siege and assault against our forces," he added.

The leader of the RSF, which was previously accused of crimes against humanity in Darfur, painted Burhan and the military as "radical Islamists." He called for the international community to intervene in the conflict.

The chair of the Germany-based Sudan Forum, Marina Peter, told DW that this conflict between Hemeti and Burhan was foreseeable and had been simmering since the ouster of dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Blinken expresses 'deep concern' over violence

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that there is a "shared deep concern" among allies toward the situation in Sudan.

"And also a strongly held view, again, across all of our partners on the need for an immediate ceasefire and return to talks — talks that were very promising in putting Sudan on the path to a full transition to civilian led government," he added

Speaking on the sidelines of the G7 foreign ministers' meeting in Japan, Blinken said the people of Sudan want democracy and for the military to "return to the barracks."

An aerial shot of a fire on the Kobar Bridge
Satellite imagery shows a fire on the Kobar Bridge crossing the Blue Nile riverImage: Planet Labs PBC/AFP

This sentiment was echoed by British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly who said "ultimately, the immediate future lies in the hands of the generals who are engaged in this fight, and we call upon them to put peace first, to bring an end to the fighting, to get back to negotiations."

It comes after the African Union and United Nations also called for an immediate cease-fire without conditions over the weekend.

What's behind the fighting in Sudan?

Fighting erupted on Saturday  after a weekslong power struggle between Burhan and his deputy, Hemeti, who heads the RSF paramilitary.

The two leaders disagreed over the planned integration of the 100,000-strong RSF into Sudan's regular army, which was key condition for the deal they struck in the wake of the 2021 military coup that they orchestrated together.

Analysts believe Hemeti opposes such a move.

Journalist Mohamed Amin in Khartoum speaks to DW

Sudan's political situation has been tense since mass protests led to the ouster of strongman Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

Burhan headed the Transitional Military Council that was supposed to usher in civilian elections. These plans were frozen when he and Hemeti staged the 2021 coup.

Earlier this month, Sudanese authorities indefinitely postponed a new agreement to hand over control to a civilian government.

"There's still a lot of support throughout the country for democratic transition," Kholood Khair, director of the Sudan-based Confluence Advisory, told DW on Sunday.

"We have to remember that this power struggle between the generals is by no means indicative of the broader politics that are taking place in Sudan."

kb,zc/rt (AFP, Reuters, AP)

A previous version of this article stated that at least 185 civilians, rather than 185 people, have been killed in the clashes. This has now been corrected. DW News apologizes for the error.