Hundreds dead as warring factions refuse to back down in Sudan

Shelling and air strikes pounded parts of Sudan's capital on Sunday with little sign that warring military factions were ready to back down in a conflict that has killed hundreds.
FILE PHOTO: A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023.
FILE PHOTO: A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Shelling and air strikes pounded parts of Sudan's capital on Sunday with little sign that warring military factions were ready to back down in a conflict that has killed hundreds despite ceasefire talks in Saudi Arabia.

Khartoum and the adjoining cities of Bahri and Omdurman across the Nile's two branches have been the main theatre of conflict along with western Darfur province since the army and Rapid Support Forces paramilitary started fighting a month ago.

Shelling struck Bahri and air strikes hit Omdurman early on Sunday, according to a Reuters reporter and witnesses. Al Arabiya television reported heavy clashes in central Khartoum.

"There were heavy air strikes near us in Saliha that shook the doors of the house," said Salma Yassin, a teacher in Omdurman.

The fighting has killed hundreds of people, sent 200,000 into neighbouring countries as refugees, displaced another 700,000 inside Sudan triggering a humanitarian catastrophe and threatens to draw in outside powers and destabilise the region.

The number of people killed in fighting on Friday and Saturday in Geneina, capital of West Darfur, reached more than 100, including the imam of the city's old mosque, the Darfur Bar Association said in a statement.

The local rights group blamed the killings, looting and arson in Geneina, where hundreds died in violence last month, on attacks by armed groups on motorbikes and the RSF. The RSF has denied responsibility for the unrest.

Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, had shared power after a 2021 coup that itself followed a 2019 uprising that ousted veteran Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

But they fell out over the terms and timing of a planned transition to civilian rule and neither man has shown he is ready for concessions, with the army controlling air power and the RSF dug deep into city districts.

Truce deals have been repeatedly broken but the United States and Saudi Arabia are mediating talks in Jeddah aimed at securing a lasting ceasefire.

"You don't know how long this war will continue ... The house became unsafe and we don't have enough money to travel out of Khartoum. Why are we paying the price of Burhan and Hemedti's war?" said Yassin, the teacher.

On Thursday the sides agreed a "declaration of principles" to protect civilians and secure humanitarian access, but with Sunday's discussions due to address monitoring and enforcement mechanisms for that deal, the fighting has not let up.

(Reporting by Mohamed Noureldin in Khartoum, Khalid Abdelaziz in Dubai and Omar Abdel-Razek in Cairo; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Jane Merriman)

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