Sudan fighting persists on Eid holiday despite 72-hour cease-fire announcement

ByMorgan Winsor ABCNews logo
Saturday, April 22, 2023

LONDON -- Deadly clashes in Sudan between forces loyal to two rival generals appeared to continue Friday, despite both sides agreeing to a three-day truce on humanitarian grounds.

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a powerful Sudanese paramilitary group, released a statement on Friday morning announcing its pledge to commit to a 72-hour cease-fire from 6 a.m. local time, coinciding with the religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The opposing Sudanese Armed Forces released a statement later Friday saying it has agreed to the three-day truce to allow for Eid celebrations and humanitarian services. However, in the hours since the cease-fire was due to begin, there have been reports of gunfire, shelling and bombing in several areas of the capital, Khartoum, and other parts of Sudan.

Earlier Friday, the commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, delivered a speech declaring the military's commitment to a civilian-led government but made no mention of a truce.

"We are confident that we will overcome this ordeal with our training, wisdom and strength in a way that preserves the security and unity of the state and enables us to secure a safe transition to civilian rule," Burhan said.

It was Burhan's first speech since the fighting erupted in Sudan on April 15 in a culmination of weeks of tensions between the Sudanese Armed Forces commander and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of the RSF. The two men were once allies who had jointly orchestrated a military coup in 2021 that dissolved Sudan's power-sharing government and derailed its short-lived transition to democracy, following the ousting of a long-time dictator in 2019.

Now, they are battling for control of the resource-rich North African nation and neither has shown any real indication of backing down, as proposed pauses in the fighting have persistently collapsed over the past week.

The clashes started in Khartoum and quickly spread to other Sudanese cities, though "the heaviest concentration of fighting" remains centered in the densely populated capital, according to the World Health Organization, the global health arm of the United Nations. The international community has repeatedly called on Sudan's warring parties to immediately lay down their arms and engage in dialogue.

There has been a wide range in the reported number of casualties and an expectation that the figure will continue to climb with the ongoing violence. Sudanese Health Minister Haitham Mohamed told Arabic news television channel Al Arabiya on Thursday that more than 600 deaths have been recorded in hospitals across the country since the conflict began. WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said during a press briefing in Geneva on Friday that at least 413 people have died while 3,551 others have been wounded.

The Sudan Doctors' Syndicate, a pro-democracy group monitoring casualties, put the civilian death toll at 243 and said 1,335 others were injured as of Thursday. Catherine Russell, executive director of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), said Thursday that at least nine children have been killed in Khartoum and more than 50 children have been wounded.

At least one American citizen is among the dead in Sudan, according to the U.S. Department of State.

The United States is sending additional military forces and equipment to a base in Djibouti, a country on the Horn of Africa, south of Sudan, to pre-position in case they are needed for the possible evacuation of Americans from Sudan, two U.S. officials told ABC News on Thursday. White House spokesperson John Kirby said during a press briefing in Washington, D.C. on Thursday that U.S. President Joe Biden had "authorized the military to move forward with prepositioning forces and to develop options in case -- and I want to stress right now -- in case there's a need for an evacuation."

The widespread clashes have left dozens of hospitals across Sudan either damaged or destroyed, according to the Sudan Doctors' Syndicate, which called the issue "a clear violation of international humanitarian law." As of Thursday, approximately 70% of hospitals in and around the conflict zones were out of service after being bombed, while others were under threat of closure due to a lack power, staffing, medical supplies, food and water. In Khartoum alone, 125 hospitals have been affected by the fighting, according to Mohamed, the Sudanese health minster.

ABC News' Ayat Al-Tawi, Shannon Crawford, Luis Martinez and Joe Simonetti contributed to this report.

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