144+ civilians killed as Sudan clashes continue, especially in Khartoum and Merowe

A damaged building after shelling in Khartoum on Sunday: "All people are fine, thank God. This is our home. May God curse wars and all those who carried arms," a user wrote (social media)

KHARTOUM / MEROWE – April 18, 2023

The battles continued between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) yesterday for their third day, especially in the three cities of Khartoum. Fierce clashes also took place around Merowe airport in Northern State. The fighting parties continue to issue contradicting statements.

Heavy fighting took place in the vicinity of the General Command in Khartoum, and elsewhere in Khartoum, Omdurman, and in East Nile in the eastern part of Khartoum North.

Residents in the city suffer from water and power outages and commodity prices have risen sharply as most shops are closed.

According to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), at least 144 civilians have lost their lives amidst the violence based on their records from yesterday. This excludes military casualties.

The latest United Nations figures report 185 confirmed deaths, not distinguishing between civilians and military personnel. The death toll is likely to be much higher as witnesses report that there are many bodies in the streets of the central cities that no one can recover because of the ongoing shooting.

Neither the SAF nor the RSF have given serious estimates of casualties.

Amidst the shutdown of state media, the fighting parties are using their social media to issue contradicting statements.

The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) claimed in a press statement yesterday that the army controls all military sites in Khartoum but, in response, the RSF announced their control of several military sites in and near the city.

Sources reported that, after heavy fighting, the army recovered the national radio and television building near the Nile river in Omdurman, but the RSF published a video from inside the building, confirming that it was still under their control.

People living in the southern part of Khartoum said that fighter jets targeted RSF bases in El Medina El Riyadiya, Ard El Muaskarat, El Nahda, and El Mujahideen neighbourhoods yesterday morning. Their witness statements also indicate that the RSF used anti-aircraft artillery.

Journalists have warned of the large amount of unverified and false information making the rounds on the internet as both sides claim victories. Social media users identified that footage from Syria in 2020 was used by the RSF to claim that it shot down a SAF plane.

Amidst the lack of state media and all the misinformation, it is difficult for many journalists to keep track of the situation. Journalist and researcher Thomas van Linge has published a map that roughly indicates SAF and RSF-controlled areas. “Note that the situation is still very fluid and this map is only an indication of the approximate territorial balance of power across the country,” he wrote on social media.

Map of the situation in Sudan according to Thomas van Linge yesterday. This map is a rough indication of approximate RSF-SAF territorial control as it was yesterday (social media)

There are also reports of the RSF troops occupying and embedding themselves in residential buildings, forcing people to leave their homes. Several witnesses told stories or shared footage of the RSF changing to civilian clothes, leaving behind their military uniforms, either as an act of desertion or an insurgency tactic.

Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, commander of the SAF, has declared the RSF a ‘rebel force’, dissolving its official status.

Merowe fighting

Residents of Merowe told Radio Dabanga that clashes between the army and the RSF continued at Merowe Airport yesterday. They highlighted to unconfirmed reports about the continued detention of Egyptian armed forces, who were reportedly captured by the RSF at the airport on Saturday.

They said the clashes between the two parties are still going on, with hit-and-run attacks between both. The people living near the airport are terrified and many fled their homes following warnings issued by the army.

In their press statement, the SAF acknowledged the RSF control of Merowe airport in northern Sudan, but the spokesperson vowed to recover it soon.

The RSF was confirmed to control the airport yesterday morning by several journalists. There are also reports that an Egyptian aircraft was burned down, showing satellite imagery of the air base, and reports that the RSF is holding Egyptian military officers captured.

The RSF does not have any air power or trained pilots, so it is likely that they wanted to make aircraft defunct in case they lose control of the airports. A geolocated video also shows the RSF inside the Jebel Aulia airbase in Khartoum and satellite images show severe damage at Khartoum International Airport.

The RSF shared footage that supposedly shows Egyptian troops that ‘surrendered’ to them in Merowe. Several journalists and news outlets, including the BBC, have tried to verify the footage and it could indeed be true.

In a speech on Egyptian state television, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he is in contact with the RSF to ensure the safety of the Egyptian troops in Sudan.

In a statement, the RSF promised that it would cooperate with the Egyptian authorities to “ease the return” of the Egyptian troops.

Any damage to Egyptian materials or troops is likely to further anger Egypt and Gulf states.