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Sudan: Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan denies deal with RSF, flees to Port Sudan

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudanese army chief   -  
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-/AFP or licensors


Sudanese army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan arrived Sunday in the coastal city of Port Sudan, an official statement said, as the country reels from over four months of war with paramilitaries.

Burhan made his first public foray in months earlier this week, having been cloistered within army headquarters in the capital Khartoum ever since the conflict erupted on April 15.

Armed forces have been fending off an unceasing offensive on the headquarters by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by Burhan's deputy turned rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.

According to a statement from the ruling sovereign council, Burhan was met Sunday by his deputy Malik Agar and other government officials who -- like the United Nations -- have relocated operations to Port Sudan, which has been spared the fierce fighting that has gripped other parts of the country.

Also on Sunday, "rockets fell on houses, killing five people", a medical source told AFP from the capital Khartoum, where witnesses also reported air strikes.

Burhan has been the de facto leader of Sudan since October 2021, when he -- in collaboration with Daglo -- led a coup that ousted civilian leaders from government and derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule.

Videos of Burhan's first foray outside army headquarters were posted Thursday, with captions indicating he was at the Wadi Seidna air base north of Khartoum.

More footage was posted by the army Friday, showing Burhan greeting troops, assuring them of impending "victory" and visiting an army hospital in the city of Atbara, 300 kilometres northeast of Khartoum.

While the capital's airport has been out of service since the conflict began, the airport in Port Sudan has remained operational for evacuation and relief flights, fuelling speculation of an overseas trip for the army chief.

Local journalists, who have flocked to the coastal city to track the army chief's movements, have floated the possibility that he is travelling to Cairo -- traditionally Burhan's closest foreign ally -- or Jeddah, the site of ceasefire negotiations previously brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Conservative estimates from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data project show that nearly 5,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

The real figure is thought to be much higher, with many victims unable to reach health services, entire cities cut off from the world and both sides refusing to report their fatalities.

More than 4.6 million people have been displaced by the fighting both across borders and within Sudan, where six million people are "one step away from famine", according to the UN.

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