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Sudan is facing a second day of violence as rival military factions fight for power

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Sudan is facing another day of violence as the bitter power struggle between the two main factions of the ruling military regime spirals out of control. Dozens have been killed. Residents in the capital Khartoum, including the U.S. ambassador and his staff, are spending another tense day sheltering in place. Gunfire and explosions continue to be heard across the city, and fighter jets frequently rip through the sky above.

(SOUNDBITE OF JET PLANE ROARING)

RASCOE: Zeinab Mohammed Salih is a journalist in the capital and joins us now with the latest. Welcome to the program.

ZEINAB MOHAMMED SALIH, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

RASCOE: So like many people in the city, you are also sheltering in place. But can you give us an idea of what is happening on the streets outside?

SALIH: We woke up on heavy gunfire in different parts of the capital, Khartoum. I saw smoke rising over Omdurman, which is the western part of the city. The army - basically, they claim that they are in control of the military bases in the north, and the other side is claiming the same, that they are in control. There is basically shortage in foods in some parts of the city. People went to buy food, and they had to queue for long to get just bread and some stuff for eating.

RASCOE: But now the Sudanese military and these - the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, the RSF - they are battling each other. And you said that they're both claiming to be in control, but we don't really know, right?

SALIH: Yeah, they are now battling each other because it's a huge power struggle between them because each of them wants to get control of the whole country. The RSF now became a huge thing, really a big army for themselves.

RASCOE: What have you been hearing from people you've been talking to overnight?

SALIH: I was speaking with a member at the sovereign council. They were trying to do kind of a mediation between two of them. They were telling me they are now, at this moment, located between the military HQ and the presidential palace. And I was talking to them and hearing the heavy guns around them. They said people were fighting on the streets outside of their houses, and the soldiers were wounded, and they are not able to take them to the hospital as well. These people are in the government and in very highest position, let alone the ordinary people when they get injured, wounded - I don't know how they get access to the hospitals or any kind of treatment.

RASCOE: Do you have any idea of how many casualties there are in this current unrest?

SALIH: Yeah. According to the Sudan doctor committee, they said about 56 people were - civilians were killed in Khartoum and in Al-Ubayyid in Northern Kordofan state. And they said hundreds of other have been injured. And that is just - they're talking about civilians. We don't know about the soldiers.

RASCOE: So, I mean, only four years ago, the country was celebrating the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir. And, you know, there was hopes of a transition to a democratic civilian-led government. So how did we get to this point?

SALIH: Yeah, as I mentioned earlier, it's a power struggle between the two generals, basically, even though they - together, they made the coup against al-Bashir when millions of people went out on the streets protesting Bashir's regime in 2019. So they mastered the coup against him, and they put him in jail. And then they had a kind of power-sharing deal with civilians. And now they are just fighting over who should be only leading the country solely.

RASCOE: That's Zeinab Mohammed Salih. She is a journalist in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Thank you so much for joining us.

SALIH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Zeinab Mohammed Salih