Sudanese Army, Rival Forces Agree to 24-Hour Cease-Fire

KHARTOUM, Sudan—A 24-hour cease-fire reportedly reached between Sudan’s rival generals went into effect on Tuesday, but fighting continued in the capital and it was unclear whether it would hold.

Residents said they still heard gunfire and explosions in different parts of Khartoum, particularly around the military’s headquarters and the Republican Palace, the seat of power. They said few people had ventured out, though there were crowds outside some bakeries.

“The fighting remains underway,” Atiya Abdulla Atiya of the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate told The Associated Press. “We are hearing constant gunfire.”

The truce between Sudan’s military and a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) came into effect at 6 p.m. local time on the fourth day of heavy fighting. The RSF immediately accused the military of violating the cease-fire, while there was no comment from the army.

The two sides had continued fighting each other in the streets of Khartoum throughout the day, underscoring the fragility of efforts to bring even a pause in the intensifying violence that has raised the specter of civil war in Africa’s third largest nation.

Millions of Sudanese in the capital and in other cities have been hiding in their homes, caught in the crossfire as rival forces pounded residential areas with artillery and airstrikes and engaged in gunbattles outside. Residents have spoken of bodies of the dead left lying in the streets, unreachable because of clashes, pointing to a toll that is likely to be far higher than the 185 dead reported so far by the U.N. since fighting began Saturday.

Over the past day, fighters in Khartoum attacked a U.S. Embassy convoy and stormed the home of the EU envoy to Sudan, though neither attack caused casualties. The convoy of clearly marked U.S. Embassy vehicles was attacked Monday, and preliminary reports link the assailants to the Rapid Support Forces, the paramilitary group battling Sudan’s military, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters. Everyone in the convoy was safe, he said.

The violence comes as the Sudanese were trying to revive the drive for a democratic, civilian government after decades of military rule. Amid increasing alarm, Blinken had stepped up efforts for a cease-fire.

He spoke by phone late Monday separately with the two rival generals—armed forces chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and RSF leader Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo—seeking a 24-hour halt in fighting as a foundation for a longer truce and return to negotiations.

Dagalo said in a series of tweets Tuesday that he had approved a 24-hour humanitarian truce after speaking to Blinken.

Initially, the military said in a statement that it was “not aware of any coordination with mediators” on a truce and vowed to step up the battle. The fighting, it said, “entered the decisive phase,” and that the coming hours would see a “crushing defeat” of the RSF.

Later, satellite channels Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera cited Lt. Gen. Shams El Din Kabbashi as saying the military would comply with the cease-fire starting at 6 p.m. local time (1600 GMT). CNN Arabic also cited Burhan, saying the military would be party to the day-long truce.

There was no public announcement of a cease-fire from military officials, however.

Shortly before the start of the cease-fire, a coalition of political parties and pro-democracy groups said it received “positive positions” from leaders of the military and the RSF on the daylong humanitarian pause. It said in a statement that discussions were underway to “solidify that truce.”

More tanks and armored vehicles belonging to the military rolled into Khartoum early Tuesday, heading toward the military’s headquarters and the Republican Palace, residents said. During the night, fighter jets swooped overhead and anti-aircraft fire lit up the sky.

In the afternoon, clashes were still reported around the military’s headquarters and close to the neighboring airport, both major battle zones. Throughout the day, the two sides battled around main bases and at strategic government buildings, all of which are in residential areas.

Each side already has tens of thousands of troops distributed around Khartoum and the city of Omdurman on the opposite bank of the Nile River. Terrified residents trapped in their homes for days have hoped for a halt long enough at least to get supplies or move to safer areas. The fighting erupted suddenly at the start of the last week of Islamic holiday Ramadan.

“We are trying to take advantage of Ramadan to try to continue our faith and prayer,” said Mohammed Al Faki, one of 89 students and staffers trapped in the engineering building at Khartoum University. “We are trying to help each other stay patient until this crisis is over.”

One student was killed by a sniper, he said, and they buried his body on the campus. The students and staff try to stay inside but, he said, they have had to go out for supplies occasionally, risking harassment by RSF fighters battling troops nearby.

“They are attacking us on the streets. They are looting. If you are walking, they will take even your phone from you in the street. There is no safety,” the 19-year-old student said of the RSF. “Our biggest problem is how can we get out of these two square kilometers.”

U.N. figures have put the toll from fighting at more than 185 dead and 1,800 wounded, without providing a breakdown of civilians and combatants. The Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate said Tuesday that at least 144 civilians were killed and more than 1,400 wounded but that many dead could still not be reached to be counted.

Damage from the fighting has been widespread. Videos posted online Tuesday showed Souq al-Bahri, a large outdoor market in northern Khartoum, in flames from nearby clashes. Satellite images from Maxar Technologies taken Monday showed damage across Khartoum, including to security service buildings. Tanks stood guard at a bridge over the White Nile River and other locations.

Satellite images from Planet Labs PBC, also taken Monday, showed some 20 damaged civilian and military aircraft at Khartoum International Airport, which has a military section. Some had been completely destroyed, with one still belching smoke. At the El Obeid and Merowe air bases, north and south of Khartoum, several fighter jets were among the destroyed aircraft.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, wrote on Twitter Monday that the EU ambassador to Sudan “was assaulted in his own residency,” without providing further details.

A Western diplomat in Cairo said the residence was ransacked by armed men in RSF uniforms. No one was hurt but the armed men stole several items, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Early on Sunday, the Norwegian ambassador’s residence was hit by a shell, causing damage but no injuries, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said.

The fighting is the latest chapter in Sudan’s turmoil since a popular uprising four years ago helped depose long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Burhan and Dagalo jointly orchestrated an October 2021 coup, derailing efforts to enshrine a civilian government. Both generals have a long history of human rights abuses, and their forces have cracked down on pro-democracy activists.

Under international pressure, Burhan and Dagalo recently agreed to a framework agreement with political parties and pro-democracy groups. But the signing was repeatedly delayed as tensions rose over the integration of the RSF into the armed forces and the future chain of command—tensions that exploded into violence Saturday.

By Jack Jeffery and Samy Magdy

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