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Unrest in Sudan as weeks of mounting tensions between two military leaders erupted in battles in the capital, Khartoum, and in other cities.

The fighting erupted on Saturday between army units loyal to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is the head of Sudan’s transitional governing Sovereign Council, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which is led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who is the deputy head of the council.

It was the first such outbreak since they joined forces to oust veteran Islamist autocrat Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019 and was sparked by a disagreement over the integration of the RSF into the military as part of a transition towards civilian rule.

Gunfire and explosions could be heard across the capital, where TV footage showed smoke rising from several districts and social media videos captured military jets flying low over the city, at least one appearing to fire a missile.

A Reuters journalist saw cannon and armored vehicles on the streets and heard heavy weapons fire near the headquarters of both the army and RSF.

A prolonged confrontation could plunge Sudan into widespread conflict as it struggles with economic breakdown and tribal violence, derailing efforts to move towards elections.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) said it had temporarily halted all operations in hunger-stricken areas of Sudan after three Sudanese employees were killed during fighting in North Darfur and a WFP plane was hit during a gun battle at Khartoum airport.

United Nations secretary-general António Guterres condemned the killings and called for accountability.

“Those responsible should be brought to justice without delay,” Mr. Guterres said on Twitter.

As reported by