Airstrike kills women and children at busy Khartoum market
Indications that SAF deliberately targeted the market
Haunting images of two toddlers screaming over the bodies of dead Sudanese women didn’t make the news this week. The women were among dozens killed in a blast at a crowded Khartoum market on November 24, a week ago.
Now in its eight month, Sudan’s civil war is destroying a country larger than Ukraine, amid evidence of unrelenting war crimes by both sides in the conflict. Yet not one international news organization covered the story of the market bombing. Even Sudan’s own Arabic-language press paid scant attention to the attack.
The blast, caused by an apparent airstrike, took place at a junction next to the Khartoum Central Market where many fruit sellers, tea ladies, and other vendors had set up shop. Using geolocation, we confirmed several videos filmed at the scene.
At least four women and three children were among the victims, as well as many civilian men who were shopping or working at the market.
The videos were filmed by members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which has perpetrated countless atrocities of its own, but which also documents airstrikes by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), especially when there are civilian casualties. SAF, for its part, has bombed several other markets in RSF-controlled parts of Khartoum, demonstrating that it considers these markets legitimate targets.
The markets, including in Kalakla al-Qubba, Mayo, and Al-Hajj Yusuf, were not near any frontline, making it unlikely that they were hit by crossfire or artillery. Rather, they were deliberately attacked from the air. Pro-SAF influencers have portrayed such markets as dens of thieves where looted goods are bought and sold, and where RSF combatants go to dine or relax. But many of the victims of recent bombings were simple people running legitimate businesses for their survival, such as women who were preparing eggs and tea when they were killed September 27, just 300 meters north of where last Friday’s attack occurred.
Videos of the latest bombing show scattered teacups, piled fruits and vegetables, tables and chairs, umbrellas, water coolers, and other items used for setting up a temporary street market. Most of the victims are civilians.
However, among the dead were possibly two RSF soldiers, identifiable by khaki pattern shirt and pants. Past videos show that RSF soldiers frequented this market, which likely was why it was targeted. In the days leading up to the attack, videos circulated on social media of RSF fighters near the precise location of the attack.
An eyewitness, Youssef Abu Fatouma, told independent publisher Darfur 24, “A few minutes before the strike, I was on a seat on a bus heading home, and I heard the sound of a strong blow and an explosion that shook the corners of the place. I found myself without realizing it getting off the bus with dust covering the place.”
“When the dust cleared, the sight of dozens of people—women, children, and men—appeared in front of me—corpses. Dismembered, with bodies dripping with blood and dust still pouring over them. The scene was mixed with the blood and bodies of buyers and sellers with their goods of vegetables, fruits, and bread.”
⚠️ Warning: Graphic video (deaths and injuries)
In the above video, the person filming is saying repeatedly, “There is no god but God.” In this context, he is using that as expression of grief and shock. At the end of the video he shouts to his comrades, “Don't gather, they will target you again!” indicating fears of a potential ‘double tap’ strike in which rescue workers are targeted.
According to the witness, Abu Fatouma, the strike affected shops selling vegetables and fruits, food stalls, and shops selling fuel, which quickly caught fire and burned the neighborhood and some cars, causing people to flee in a state of panic and shock.
Sudan War Monitor is a reader-supported publication. We use OSINT and journalism techniques to shed light on underreported conflict events and war crimes.
An accurate death toll from the incident is impossible at this stage because of the absence of government and health authorities in the area where it occurred. The dead and wounded were brought to different hospitals and burial places.
In videos from the scene, we counted 20 individuals lying on the ground motionless, including four women and three children, and two wounded men lying on the ground who was still moving. Additionally, one blood-covered man is seen slumped over in a car, and another man in a wheelchair slumped over and motionless.
Severe head and chest injuries indicate that many of these individuals are probably already dead or mortally injured. Several more lightly injured people are also seen, including two men walking around in blood-stained clothing. Scattered cigarette packs lay around one victim. Scattered apples lay around two dead boys.
Darfur 24 reported, “All those who spoke to Darfur 24 say that the number of dead people exceeded 30, and about 40 people were injured, despite the fact that no official statistics have been issued by health authorities…”
Twenty-seven (27) wounded people were brought to Bashair Hospital in the south of Khartoum, including eight children and seven women, as well as one dead person, according to the the Southern Belt Emergency Room.
Bashair Hospital lacks supplies to treat the wounded, such as anesthesia. Doctors Without Borders, which had supported the hospital, suspended surgical care in October after military authorities blocked the transport of surgical supplies from Wad Madani for over a month.
Nearby attacks the previous day
Alleged airstrikes also occurred November 23, the day before the market attack, on Madani street, just a few hundred meters away from the Central Market. However, there are no reported casualties from this earlier attack, as far as we are aware.
Satellite imagery shows at least two fire along that road on November 23, and videos circulated the following day show what appears to be fuel fires.
A video filmed by an RSF influencer on the same date, who says he is in the same area of the Central Market, shows damage to some buildings.
Bombing in Omdurman
Additional bombings took place in several other parts of the capital region on the same day, including one November 24 in the Beit al-Mal neighborhood of Omdurman.
The Beit al-Mal resistance committee reported, “injuries among residents after a morning air strike on the Beit al-Mal neighborhood.”
“The number is being counted—and due to the deterioration and difficulty of communications, news is still coming in. We call on the Sudanese army to immediately stop aerial bombardment of the Beit al-Mal neighborhood. We confirm that all the times the neighborhood was bombed by aircraft, the material and human cost to the neighborhood’s residents was much greater than the losses to the Janjaweed militia!
The resistance committees are former protest groups that helped topple the former regime of Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Typically they are critical of both sides in the current war, and many are involved in grassroots humanitarian operations.
Satellite images confirm fires in the Omdurman area near Beit al-Mal on November 23, but we have not yet confirmed any videos or photos of these incidents.
Condemnation of ‘massacre’
Darfur Bar Association released a statement after the bombings, blaming the army commander, Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo for the war and saying the bear full responsibility for all its devastating consequences. The lawyers expressed concern about the videos of the Central Market bombing, calling it a “hideous massacre.”
In another development, the RSF shelled the al-Rahma market in Gamair area of Omdurman, killing one person and injuring another, according to the the lawyers.