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No Eid Cease-Fire in Sudan


FILE: Residential buildings damaged in fighting are seen in Khartoum, Sudan, April 20, 2023.

UPDATED AGAIN WITH WAGNER GROUP POSSIBLE INVOVLEMENT: KHARTOUM - The forces of two rival generals fought intense street battles in Sudan's capital Khartoum on Friday, witnesses reported, as they ignored appeals for an Eid ceasefire. The mercenary Wagner Group reportedly offered weapons to the RSF.

Gunfire ripped through several neighborhoods of Sudan's capital Khartoum on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr on Friday, after the army deployed on foot for the first time in its almost week-long fight with a paramilitary force.

The World Health Organization said 413 people had been killed and 3,551 wounded in the fighting so far across Sudan, in an update issued on Friday. The death toll is thought to be higher, however, with many wounded unable to reach hospitals.

The army has entered a new phase, fighting the Rapid Response Force (RSF) on the ground, after having stuck largely to air strikes across the capital, with fiercer clashes in central Khartoum, since the power struggle erupted last weekend.

In a statement, the army said it had begun "the gradual cleaning of hotbeds of rebel groups around the capital."

Army troops brandishing semi-automatic weapons were greeted by cheers on one street, a video released by the military on Friday showed. Reuters verified the location of the video, in the north of the city, but could verify when it was filmed.

Fighting extended down Medani Street, the main highway leading from Khartoum to Gezira state being used by those fleeing, as the RSF appeared to withdraw towards rural villages on the outskirts of Khartoum, eyewitnesses told Reuters.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Russian mercenary Wagner Group offered weapons to the RSF. The publication says Wagner offered heavy weapons, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Sudan's leader has repeatedly used airstrikes to grind down its opposition, though causing civilian havoc.

WSJ says RSF chief Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo has, for now, turned down Wagner's offer, reportedly to avoid triggering a response from Washington.

Cyrus Paye, who works for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the war-ravaged western Darfur region, paints a terrifying picture of the violence that erupted across the country at the weekend.

"The majority of the wounded are civilians who were hit by stray bullets, and many of them are children," Paye said, MSF project coordinator in South Hospital in El Fasher, state capital of North Darfur.

"They have fractures caused by bullets, or they have gunshot wounds or shrapnel in their legs, their abdomen or their chest. Many need blood transfusions."

The World Health Organization said 413 people had been killed and 3,551 wounded in the fighting so far across Sudan, in an update issued on Friday. The death toll is thought to be higher, however, with many wounded unable to reach hospitals.

The United Nations' migration agency, IOM, said that one of its staff members had been killed in fighting in southern Sudan on Friday when his vehicle was caught in the crossfire between rival factions.

In Washington, the White House said no decision yet had been made to evacuate American diplomatic personnel but the U.S. is preparing for such an eventuality if it becomes necessary.

The fighting erupted Saturday between forces loyal to Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the commander of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who is commonly known as Hemeti.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said on Thursday he saw "no other option but the military solution" to the power struggle with the paramilitary force that erupted into violence last weekend.

Both UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called separately for a ceasefire of "at least" three days to mark Eid, as explosions and gunfire resounded in Khartoum.

But, like two previous declared 24-hour ceasefires, it failed to take hold.

In his first speech since the conflict engulfed Sudan nearly a week ago, army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan pledged the military would prevail and secure the vast African nation's “safe transition to civilian rule.”

"For Eid this year, our country is bleeding: destruction, desolation and the sound of bullets have taken precedence over joy," he said in a pre-recorded video, which showed him sitting behind a desk in military uniform.

"We hope that we will come out of this ordeal more united... a single army, a single people... towards a civilian power."

The International Crisis Group (IGC) warned urgent steps were needed to stop a descent into "full-blown civil war", warning "the nightmare scenario that many feared in Sudan is unfolding."

The World Food Program warned the violence could plunge millions more into hunger in a country where 15 million people - one-third of the population - need aid.

It has suspended its Sudan operations after the killing of three WFP workers on Saturday.

This report was compiled from Associated Press, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and Agence France-Presse