FILE PHOTO: Dozens of people gather in front of the office of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) in support of Sudan s military leaders, in Khartoum, Sudan, Wednesday, June 1, 2022. AP
The assault took place in the Dar es Salaam neighborhood in Omdurman, the neighboring city of the capital, Khartoum, according to a brief statement by the health ministry. The attack wounded an unspecified number of people, it said.
The ministry posted video footage that showed dead bodies on the ground with sheets covering them and people trying to pull the dead from the rubble. Others attempted to help the wounded. People could be heard crying.
The attack was one of the deadliest in the fighting in urban areas of the capital and elsewhere in Sudan. The conflict pits the military against a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces. Last month, an airstrike killed at least 17 people including 5 children in Khartoum.
The RSF blamed the military for Saturday’s attack and other strikes on residential areas in Omdurman, where fighting has raged between the warring factions, according to residents. The military has reportedly attempted to cut off a crucial supply line for the paramilitary force there.
A spokesman for the military was not immediately available for comment Saturday.
Two Omdurman residents said it was difficult to determine which side was responsible for the attack. They said the military’s aircraft have repeatedly targeted RSF troops in the area and the paramilitary force has used drones and anti-aircraft weapons against the military.
At the time of the attack early Saturday, the military was hitting the RSF, which took people’s houses as shields, and the RSF fired anti-aircraft rounds at the attacking warplanes, said Abdel-Rahman, one of the residents who asked to use only his first name out of concern for his safety.
“The area is like a hell ... fighting around the clock and people are not able to leave,” he said.
The conflict broke out in mid-April, capping months of increasing tensions between the military, chaired by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. The fighting came 18 months after the two generals led a military coup in October 2021 that toppled a Western-backed civilian transitional government.
Health Minister Haitham Mohammed Ibrahim said in televised comments last month that the clashes have killed over 3,000 people and wounded over 6,000 others. More than 2.9 million people have fled their homes to safer areas inside Sudan or crossed into neighboring countries, according to U.N. figures.
“It’s a place of great terror,” Martin Griffiths, the United Nations humanitarian chief, said of Sudan on Friday. He decried “the appalling crimes” taking place across the country and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.
The conflict has plunged the African country into chaos and turned Khartoum and other urban areas into battlefields. Members of the paramilitary force have occupied people’s houses and other civilian properties since the onset of the conflict, according to residents and activists. There were also reports of widespread destruction and looting across Khartoum and Omdurman.
Sexual violence, including the rape of women and girls, has been reported in Khartoum and the western Darfur region, which have seen some of the worst fighting in the conflict. Almost all reported cases of sexual attacks were blamed on the RSF, which hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comment.
On Wednesday, top U.N. officials including Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, called for a “prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation” into the increasing reports of sexual violence against women and girls.
The Sudanese Unit for Combating Violence against Women, a government organization that tracks sex attacks against women, said it documented 88 cases of rape related to the ongoing conflict, including 42 in Khartoum and 46 in Darfur.
The unit, however, said the figure likely represented only 2% of the truce number of cases, which means there were a possible 4,400 cases of sexual violence since the fighting began on April 15, according to the Save the Children charity.
“Sexual violence continues to be used as a tool to terrorize women and children in Sudan,” said Arif Noor, director of Save the Children in Sudan. “Children as young as 12 are being targeted for their gender, for their ethnicity, for their vulnerability.”