Heavy fighting was still under way in Sudan on Tuesday hours after an internationally brokered truce was supposed to have come into effect, as forces loyal to dueling generals battled for key locations in the capital and accused each other of violating the ceasefire.
The truce, reported by several Arab media outlets, was to begin Tuesday at 6pm local time, but heavy fighting continued raging.
Residents said they still heard gunfire and explosions in different parts of Khartoum, particularly around the military’s headquarters and the Republican Palace, the seat of power. They said few people had ventured out, though there were crowds outside some bakeries.
“The fighting remains under way,” Atiya Abdulla Atiya of the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate told The Associated Press. “We are hearing constant gunfire.”
Both generals are backed by tens of thousands of heavily armed troops who have been battling across the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere in Sudan since Saturday.
The violence has killed at least 185 people, wounded hundreds more and raised the specter of civil war in Africa’s third largest country.
Millions of Sudanese in the capital and in other major cities have been hiding in their homes, caught in the crossfire as the two forces battle for control, with rival generals so far insisting they will crush the other.
Earlier, CNN Arabic also said in a report, citing the head of the country’s military, General Abdel Fattah Burhan, that the military would be party to the day-long truce.
The development came a day after a US Embassy convoy came under fire and forces of the two rivals pounded each other for a fourth day with heavy weapons.
The attack on the convoy in Khartoum, along with an assault on the EU envoy’s residence and the shelling of the Norwegian ambassador’s home, signalled a further descent into chaos in the country.
The convoy of clearly marked US Embassy vehicles was attacked on Monday, and preliminary reports linked the assailants to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the paramilitary group battling Sudan’s military, US secretary of state Antony Blinken told reporters. Everyone in the convoy was safe, he said.
More than 185 people have been killed and more than 1,800 wounded since fighting began on Saturday, according to UN figures, which did not include a breakdown of civilians and combatants.
The Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate said on Tuesday that at least 144 civilians were killed and more than 1,400 were wounded.
The overall death toll could be much higher because clashes in Khartoum have prevented the removal of bodies in some areas.
“I made very clear that any attacks or threats or dangers posed to our diplomats were totally unacceptable,” Mr Blinken told reporters at the Group of Seven wealthy nations meeting in Japan on Tuesday. He appealed for an immediate 24-hour ceasefire as a foundation for a longer truce and a return to negotiations.
General Dagalo said in a series of tweets on Tuesday that he had approved a 24-hour humanitarian truce after speaking to Mr Blinken.
More tanks and armoured vehicles belonging to the military rolled into Khartoum early on Tuesday, heading towards the military’s headquarters and the Republican Palace, the seat of power, residents said.
During the night, fighter jets swooped overhead and anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies.
Video from the Arab TV network Al-Arabiya showed a large explosion near the main military headquarters in central Khartoum that raised a giant cloud of smoke and dust.
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies taken on Monday showed damage across Khartoum, including to security service buildings. Tanks stood guard at a bridge over the White Nile River and other locations in the Sudanese capital.
Satellite images from Planet Labs PBC, also taken on Monday, showed 20 damaged civilian and military aircraft at Khartoum International Airport, which has a military section.
Some had been completely destroyed, with one still belching smoke. At the El Obeid and Merowe air bases, north and south of Khartoum, several fighter jets were among the destroyed aircraft.
The violence has raised the spectre of civil war just as the Sudanese were trying to revive the drive for a democratic, civilian government after decades of military rule.
Each side already has tens of thousands of troops distributed around the districts of Khartoum and the city of Omdurman on the opposite bank of the Nile River. That has brought the fighting and chaos — with gunbattles, artillery barrages and air strikes — to the doorsteps of the cities’ terrified residents.