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Clashes between Sudan military factions spill over into full-scale violence

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

Widespread fighting has broken out between two factions of the military in the East African country of Sudan, leaving at least 25 people dead, according to Reuters.

(SOUNDBITE OF MILITARY JETS)

NADWORNY: The sound of gunfire, explosions and the roar of military jets have been reverberating across Sudan's capital, Khartoum, since early this morning. Gunshots were even heard on air during a broadcast on state television.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: (Non-English language spoken).

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

NADWORNY: The news presenter was telling his audience the situation was calm there, but at that very moment, gunfire could be heard in the background. Violence has reportedly broken out in other parts of the country as well. Tensions in Sudan have been escalating in recent weeks as a scheduled deadline for the transfer of military rule to civilian government expired a few days ago. People have been told to stay inside as rivalries between ruling military factions spilled over into full-scale violence. The U.S. ambassador tweeted he and his staff were sheltering in place as the capital city went into effective lockdown. Journalist Zeinab Mohammed Salih joins us from Khartoum now. Good evening.

ZEINAB MOHAMMED SALIH: Good evening. Thank you for having me.

NADWORNY: So it's late in the evening in Khartoum right now. Can you describe to us just what the day's events were like, how it unfolded and what the latest situation is?

SALIH: Clashes between the Sudan armed forces and the paramilitary, the rapid support forces erupted around the sports city in the south of Khartoum, which is not too far from the capital, from the airport and - around 9:00 a.m., basically, and then they quickly spread to different parts of the city. The rapid support forces announced earlier that they controlled the airport and the presidential palace, and they were trying to get into the - they said - they claimed that they controlled over the military HQ as well.

NADWORNY: So this confrontation between the two sides of the military has been predicted by many. I mean, can you remind our audience just how we got to this point?

SALIH: It started when the army, the security sector, including the army and the RSF, were having a power sharing deal with the civilians. So in that deal, there's supposed to be something on integrating the RSF into the army. And the RSF suggested the integration should be within 10 years. The army insisted it to be in two years. So that is the main reason for them to reach to this point, to fight the rebellion in Darfur that was started in 2003, where the RSF - they used to be called the Janjaweed militia. They had been accused of committing genocide and war and crimes against humanity and war crimes. And then they had like a military - sorry, they had a power-sharing deal with the civilians who led the protests against al-Bashir and with two years of a transition towards democracy - for two years. And then the army and the RSF together, they made - they interrupted that transition by a coup in October 2021. In order to get back to the transitional period, the international community, the USA, the U.K. and all supported a new power-sharing deal, which is - which was supposed to be done by the 11 of April, a few days ago.

NADWORNY: Zeinab Salih is joining us from Khartoum, the city of Khartoum, which has seen heavy fighting all day today. Thank you so much for being with us.

SALIH: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.