CAIRO — In a symbolic gesture, Sudan's top army general on Friday fired a paramilitary leader — his former ally turned deadly rival — as the deputy of the country's governing body, state media reported.
Clashes broke out between the Sudanese army and a rival paramilitary force, the Rapid Support Forces, after their leaders failed to agree on the terms of a deal handing power over to a civilian government last month.
The dismissal by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan of RSF commander Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo from the Sovereignty Council comes as the fighting between the two generals threatens to unleash a raging civil war in the African country.
The monthlong conflict has already killed at least 705 people, the World Health organization said Friday.
The firing, reported by the state SUNA news agency, is unlikely to affect the battlefield where the warring sides appear locked in a stalemate and unwilling to end the hostilities. The paramilitary forces did not immediately comment.
The combat has been most acute in the Sudanese capital and in the western Darfur region.
In South Darfur's regional capital of Nyala, intense fighting between the army and RSF forces flared up Thursday killing at least 18 civillians, the Darfur Bar Association said, a legal group focusing on human rights.
Last weekend, more than 280 civilians were killed when RSF and other affiliated militias stormed the city of Geneina, also in the Darfur region, and clashed with armed residents, the Sudan Doctors Union said.
Last week, the two sides signed a U.S.-Saudi brokered pact vowing to better protect civilians caught in the crossfire. International efforts are underway to try and build a lasting truce.
Burhan appointed Malik Agar, a once prominent leader of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a rebel movement in Sudan's southern Blue Nile State, to replace Dagalo, SUNA said.
The United Nations and rights groups have accused Sudan's warring sides of human rights abuses. The army has been blamed for bombing residential areas and hospitals, while the RSF was condemned for looting, attacking civilians and turning civilian houses into operational bases.
The head of the Sudanese delegation at Friday's Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia urged other Arab countries to help end the crisis. Ali Osman, who is representing Burhan, warned that if the war continues it will have damaging regional repercussions. According to the U.N., at least 220,000 people have already fled Sudan to neighboring countries.
Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue contributed to this report from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.