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Another Bloody Monday in Sudan

FILE: Smoke rises over Khartoum, Sudan, June 23, 2023, as clashes continued between warring factions in and around Sudan's capital. The fighting continued on Monday, June 26.

KHARTOUM — Sudan's army on Monday faced a multi-front challenge after losing a Khartoum police headquarters to paramilitaries in a battle that killed at least 14 civilians, while rebels attacked troops near Ethiopia.

Khartoum residents said fighting continued Monday in the area of the Central Reserve base that was attacked Sunday by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Gen. Mohammad Dagalo. The residents said RSF shells targeting an army checkpoint wounded civilians on a bus.

"The headquarters is under our complete control... and we have seized a large number of vehicles, arms and munitions," the RSF said in a statement.

On Sunday, "14 civilians including two children were killed" in the same general area, according to a network of activists who try to evacuate wounded to the few hospitals still operating.

The activists said 217 others were wounded, "including 72 in critical condition," by "stray bullets, air raids or shelling" in residential neighbourhoods of Khartoum's south.

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity reported on Monday that in the past 48 hours 150 war-wounded had been treated at Khartoum's Turkish Hospital.

"The majority of patients are civilians - including children and the elderly," MSF said on Twitter.

Central Reserve are a paramilitary police unit sanctioned last year by Washington for "serious human rights abuses" related to its use of "excessive force" against earlier pro-democracy protests.

The Central Reserve headquarters gives the RSF "control of the southern entrance to the capital", the former army officer said.

The presence of the RSF in that area poses "a serious threat" to the nearby headquarters of the armoured corps, a key army unit in south Khartoum, the source added.

An army source, not authorised to speak to the press, said the RSF lost "more than 400 men" in the Central Reserve battle. RSF have not provided any casualty figures but claimed their operation against the police facility led to the killing or capture of hundreds of army-linked personnel.

If the RSF maintain their hold on the strategic site at the southern edge of the capital, it "would have a major impact on the battle of Khartoum", a former army officer told AFP, requesting anonymity for safety reasons.

The army denied in a statement that the RSF had won a "military victory", and denounced "a flagrant attack against state institutions that protect civilians."

Darfur, a vast western region on the border with Chad, has witnessed the deadliest violence since the war erupted on April 15.

In the South Darfur state capital, Nyala, at least a dozen civilians were killed on Sunday, according to a local doctor who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

Residents reported intense artillery fire overnight Sunday to Monday. "Rockets are falling on civilian homes," one of them told AFP.

Troops were also battling hundreds of kilometers south, in Kurmuk, near the border with Ethiopia, where residents said a rebel group attacked army positions.

That same group, a faction of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), had opened a new front against the army last week in South Kordofan state by attacking soldiers, the army said at the time.

The faction, led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, was one of two holdout groups that refused to sign a 2020 peace deal.

Two-thirds of Sudan's health facilities in the main battlegrounds remain out of service, the World Health Organization has said, with some bombed and others occupied by fighters.

The few hospitals still operating are extremely low on medical supplies, struggling to obtain fuel to power generators, and understaffed.

Nearly 2,800 people have been killed across Sudan since the power struggle between the army and the RSF began, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

As more Sudanese flee for safety every day, there have also been increasing reports of sexual violence and looting.

Around two million people have been displaced within the country, and roughly 600,000 others have fled over Sudan's borders, the International Organization for Migration has said.