At least 40 civilians were killed in an air raid on war-torn Sudan’s western region of Darfur Wednesday, according to a medical source, as army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan headed to Turkey.
“Forty civilians have been killed in an air strike that hit two markets and a number of the city’s neighbourhoods,” the medical source told AFP from a hospital in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. The source asked for anonymity out of security concerns.
Witnesses in the area had earlier reported air strikes falling on two markets and causing civilian casualties in Sudan’s second-biggest city, where fighting intensified last month.
The vast region of Darfur — the size of France and home to a quarter of Sudan’s population — has seen some of the worst fighting in the five-month war between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by Burhan’s former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
Since April 15, nearly 7,500 people have been killed, according to a conservative estimate from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
Wednesday’s attack came a day after a medical source reported 17 civilians killed in Khartoum’s sister city of Omdurman. Witnesses described the attack as RSF shelling.
On Sunday, at least 51 people were killed and dozens wounded in air strikes on southern Khartoum, according to United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk.
The armed forces control the skies over Khartoum, while RSF fighters continue to dominate the city’s streets.
The #UN human rights chief says that hundreds have been killed in West Darfur in #Sudan in ethnically motivated attacks perpetrated by the paramilitary RSF. He added that most of West Darfur was controlled by the RSF, which has been fighting the Sudanese army since April. pic.twitter.com/rFwUiUwTIU
— CGTN Global Watch (@GlobalWatchCGTN) September 13, 2023
Burhan’s visit to Turkey is his fifth trip abroad since late August as he vies for legitimacy in a devastating power struggle with his former deputy.
The army chief, who has been de facto head of state since he led a 2021 coup in collaboration with the RSF’s Daglo, will hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on “bilateral relations and ways to strengthen them,” said Burhan’s office.
Until late last month, Burhan had been holed up under siege by the RSF at army headquarters in Khartoum.
From his new base in the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan, he has since visited Egypt, South Sudan, Qatar, and Eritrea in what analysts say is a diplomatic push to burnish his credentials in the event of negotiations to end the conflict.
Earlier diplomatic efforts had repeatedly failed to establish a sustained ceasefire.
The violence shows no signs of abating while the humanitarian needs of millions — both inside Sudan and in its neighboring countries — increase.
The war has uprooted more than five million people, including one million who fled across borders, according to UN figures.