Speed Reads

Khartoum Violence

More than 185 dead in Sudan as power struggle between rival generals tips toward civil war

Heavy fighting between rival generals vying for power in Sudan entered a fourth day Tuesday, leaving at least 185 people dead and more than 1,800 wounded in Khartoum, the capital, and elsewhere in the country, the United Nations says. Residents of Khartoum have been trapped in their houses or other shelter as Sudan's army, led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, trades artillery and tank fire in densely populated urban areas with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti.

The actual death toll "could be much higher because there are many bodies in the streets around central Khartoum that no one can reach because of the clashes," The Associated Press reports. Most of the hospitals in and around the capital are out of service. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that one of the factions, most likely the RSF, attacked a clearly marked U.S. diplomatic convoy, though everyone in the convoy was safe. The European Union ambassador to Sudan was attacked in his Khartoum residence.

Blinken, who spoke with both generals on Monday, joined a chorus of other countries and international organizations calling for a ceasefire before the conflict turns into a full-bore civil war or wider regional conflict. Among those calling for a cessation of hostilities are Egypt, which backs Sudan's military, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have close ties to the RSF. 

Burhan and Hemedti — whose paramilitary grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militia that worked with Sudan's military to quash a rebellion in Darfur — were part of the military establishment that ousted longtime leader Omar al-Bashir amid a popular uprising in 2019. They then worked together in 2021 to topple the civilian leader chosen to replace al-Bashir, and ruled in a power-sharing agreement until Saturday. The current battle ostensibly stems from disagreements on how to integrate the RSF into the regular armed forces, as laid out in a December 2022 framework agreement aimed at reviving Sudan's tenuous transition to democratic civilian rule.

But Hemedti, with an estimated 70,000 to 150,000 fighters, has been building international ties with Russia, the Saudis, and the UAE, and his growing ambitions led to tensions with Burhan, The New York Times explains. "Both sides have bases across the country," Alan Boswell at the International Crisis Group tells the Financial Times. "Both see this fight in existential terms. This is a pure power struggle for who will control Sudan."