US officials and travelers inside the African country of Sudan are being encouraged to shelter in place as gunfire and explosions rock the capital of Khartoum.
The paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) has been fighting with Sudan’s army, and the RSF claimed on Saturday to have seized the presidential palace and taken control of the city’s airport.
“Due to reports of heavy shelling at multiple locations in Khartoum, embassy staff have been ordered to take shelter,” the US Embassy in Sudan wrote in an alert. “US citizens are encouraged to shelter in place.”
Sudan’s army warns of possible conflict with powerful paramilitary forces
Violent clashes between the National Army and RSF groups for control of Sudan have raised threats of civil war.
The latest tensions between the military and the paramilitary group stem from a disagreement over how the RSF should be integrated into the army – a key condition of an unsigned transition deal for Sudan. The army-RSF rivalry, however, dates back to the rule of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in 2019.
Under al-Bashir, the paramilitary force, led by powerful General Mohammed Hamdan Dagallo, grew out of former militias known as the Janjaweed, which carried out brutal operations in Sudan’s Darfur region during decades of conflict.
Reformist Sudanese general says military leaders refuse to step down
Although both the army and the RSF jointly staged a coup in October 2021, which succeeded Sudan transition As for democracy, friction between them became increasingly visible in recent months with conflicting public statements, a heavy military presence in Khartoum, and parallel foreign visits by military and RSF leaders.
RSF leaders claimed on Saturday that they had taken control of both the airport and the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“I just arrived in Khartoum late last night and woke up to deeply disturbing sounds of gunfire and fighting. I am currently sheltering with the embassy team, as are Sudanese throughout Khartoum and elsewhere, ” Said US Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey,
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He continued, “It is extremely dangerous to escalate tensions within the military component to direct fighting. I call on senior military leaders to stop fighting immediately.”
The 2021 coup ousted a Western-backed, power-sharing administration and dashed Sudanese aspirations for democratic rule after three decades of autocracy and repression under al-Bashir.
A months-long popular uprising forced the military to overthrow al-Bashir in April 2019. since then, the former president, who wanted International Criminal Court Has been imprisoned in Khartoum on charges of war crimes and genocide in the Darfur conflict.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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