Bodies litter streets as fighting intensifies in Sudan

Smoke rises over Khartoum, Sudan, on June 8, 2023, as fighting between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces continues. More than 20 people were killed on Nov. 5, 2023, after shells hit a market in a suburb of Khartoum. 

Corpses littered the streets of a district of Sudan's capital on Thursday, witnesses said, as the United Nations expressed alarm over escalating fighting in Darfur between the army and paramilitaries.

"The bodies of people in military uniforms are lying in the streets of the city centre after the fighting yesterday," a witness in Omdurman, located across the Nile River from Khartoum, told AFP by telephone.

Her account was confirmed by other witnesses. One of them said a woman working at Al-Nau hospital in the north of Omdurman was killed when a shell slammed into the last operational medical facility in the area.

Since April, forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan -- Sudan's de facto head of state -- have been at war with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commanded by his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

Intense fighting continued in Khartoum and its surrounding areas, as well as the vast western region of Darfur, where some of the bloodiest clashes have taken place.

The RSF has claimed control of all but one major city in Darfur.

Their advance amid a communications blackout has triggered renewed fears of ethnically motivated mass killings.

"Hundreds of thousands of civilians and displaced people are now in great danger in El Fasher, North Darfur, with a fast deteriorating security situation, lack of food and water and very poor services," the UN's deputy humanitarian coordinator for Darfur, Toby Harward, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"If the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese army fight for control of the city, it will have devastating impact on civilians," he added.

'Serious abuses'

The US embassy in Khartoum said it was "deeply disturbed by eyewitness reports of serious human rights abuses by the RSF and affiliated militias".

This included "killings in Ardamata, West Darfur, ethnic targeting of the Masalit community leaders and members", it said, referring to one of the largest non-Arab ethnic minorities in West Darfur.

Sudan's ruling sovereign council reported the death of Masalit tribal leader Mohammad Arbab, saying he was "assassinated by the RSF's rebel militias after attacking civilian homes in Ardamata".

"His son and eight of his grandchildren were also killed in a heinous crime," added the body, chaired by Burhan.

Since fighting broke out on April 15 between forces loyal to Burhan and Daglo, more than 10,000 people have been killed in Sudan, according to a conservative estimate from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data project.

About six million people have been uprooted from their homes, according to UN figures.

Many have fled beyond the country's borders, with the UN saying on Thursday it was "sounding the alarm" at the number of people escaping to South Sudan.

Arrivals had increased 50 percent between September and October, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

More than 366,000 people had fled south since the start of the war, he said, adding that the southward spread of the conflict could trigger further displacement and strain an "already overstretched" humanitarian response.