Sudan: Army fights to keep Wadi Saeedna airbase, residents say

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Smoke billows in the distance in Khartoum amid ongoing fighting between the forces of two rival generals, on May 18, 2023. - Around 1,000 people have been killed, mainly in and around Khartoum as well as in the long-troubled western region of Darfur. More than one million others have been uprooted by the battles between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who leads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). (Photo by - / AFP)

Sudan’s army is resisting an attempt by paramilitaries to advance towards its main airbase near the capital Khartoum, residents have said.

The airfield is used by the military to carry out air strikes on the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and was also used by foreign governments to evacuate their nationals early in the conflict.

The fighting comes despite the announcement of a new seven-day truce.

Previous ceasefires have collapsed within minutes of being called.

A US-Saudi statement said the latest truce would come into effect on Monday evening, and would be different as it provides for a “ceasefire monitoring mechanism”.

The US and Saudi Arabia have been brokering talks between the army and the RSF in the Saudi city of Jeddah for the past two weeks in an attempt to end the conflict that broke out on 15 April.

Most people I spoke to in Khartoum said a ceasefire would hold only if international monitors – backed by United Nations (UN) peacekeepers – are deployed.

In a sign of their lack of confidence in the latest ceasefire deal, bus loads of residents are continuing to flee Khartoum and its sister cities across the River Nile, Bahri and Omdurman, as there has been no let-up in the fighting.

RSF fighters in about 20 trucks are positioned east of the Nile, and are trying to cross a bridge to reach the Wadi Saeedna airfield.

The Sudanese military has retaliated by firing heavy artillery.

The battle has been going on for several days, but it has escalated.

“It feels like doomsday from early this [Sunday] morning. I think they will torture us until this ceasefire comes into effect,” said a resident in Bahri’s Khojalab suburb.

The military cannot afford to lose control of the airfield, as it is key to its strategy of pounding the RSF from the air as it fights to regain control of Khartoum and the other two cities.

An air strike also took place in Omdurman on Sunday, and explosions could be heard in its southern areas.