Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, vice president of the Sudan Sovereign Council and leader of the Rapid Support Force paramilitary group, is pictured on August 4, 2019. Dagalo’s RSF announced Saturday it had seized control of Sudan’s presidential palace in an apparent coup. File Photo by Marwan Ali/EPA-EFE
April 15 (UPI) — A paramilitary group on Saturday claimed to have seized control of Sudan’s presidential palace and international airport in an apparent coup attempt amid sounds of heavy fighting in Khartoum.
The Rapid Support Force, led by Sudan Sovereign Council vice president Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, said in an issued statement it has seized control of palace in Khartoum and other key sites around the country from the ruling Sudanese Army.
At least 25 people died in heavy weapons clashes between the RSF and the army following weeks of intensifying disputes between the two sides over a proposed transition to civilian rule, CNN reported.
Another 183 people have been injured, the Sudanese Central Medical Committee told CNN.
In its statement, the RSF said the moves were a response to an “unprovoked attack” on its headquarters in Khartoum by the Army.
“What the Armed Forces Command and a number of officers did represents a clear violation of our forces, which were committed to peace and restraint,” the armed group said, adding that Sudanese that citizens were safe and that the situation was under control.
Army spokesman Brigadier-General Nabil Abdallah, however, claimed operation was in response to an RSF attack on several Khartoum army camps, the Spanish news agency EFE reported.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s military leader, called Dagalo a “criminal” in an interview with Al Jazeera.
“I cannot give a time limit to the fighting; however, we are adamant to end it with the least of losses,” al-Burhan said.
U.S. Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey said he “woke up to the deeply disturbing sounds of gunfire and fighting” on Saturday, adding, “I am currently sheltering in place with the Embassy team, as Sudanese throughout Khartoum and elsewhere are doing.”
Godfrey urged Sudan’s senior military leaders to “stop the fighting,” a sentiment echoed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said in a Twitter statement he is “deeply concerned about reports of escalating violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces.”
“We are in touch with the Embassy team in Khartoum — all are currently accounted for,” Blinken said. “We urge all actors to stop the violence immediately and avoid further escalations or troop mobilizations and continue talks to resolve outstanding issues.”
“Alarming news of fighting in Sudan,” added European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles. “The EU calls on all forces to stop the violence immediately. An escalation will only aggravate the situation. Protection of citizens is a priority. All EU staff in the country is safe and accounted for.”
The apparent coup attempt comes after tensions between the two armed groups — both members of the military-led Sudan Sovereign Council — intensified in recent days. The RSF is seen as a rival to the Sudanese Army and has its roots in the Janjaweed militia blamed for committing human rights abuses in the Darfur region in the 2000s.
The two sides have sparred as military and civilians in Sudan failed to agree on the formation of the new transitional government last week. The goal is to hold elections that would bring the country back under civilian rule following an October 2021 military coup. » …