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TheNational.ae: Sudan protesters defiant after deadly raid on protest site in Khartoum

Posted by: Berhane.Habtemariam59@web.de

Date: Monday, 03 June 2019

Troops kill more than a dozen in long-feared confrontation between soldiers and civilians

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Sudanese troops moved to break up a sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum on Monday, killing at least 13 people and burning tents in a siege that prompted calls from protesters for "full civil disobedience" and an end to talks with the military.

Gunfire and explosions were heard across the Sudanese capital after troops prevented access to roads that led to the camp of protesters demanding a new era of civilian rule in the country after the fall of the country's long-time president Omar Al Bashir.

The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) said 13 people, including an eight-year-old child, had been killed and that the military had shot inside the East Nile Hospital. More than 116 people had been injured and the number of deaths was likely to rise, according to CCSD estimates. The toll is expected to rise.

The body representing the civilian movement said it was halting all contact with the military council, marking the end of months of negotiations between the two bodies who ousted Mr Al Bashir. It was in negotiations with the military about the makeup of an interim council.

Activists said it was an attempt to disperse the protest outside the Defence Ministry, while the military claimed they were just clearing criminal elements.

"The protesters holding a sit-in in front of the army general command are facing a massacre in a treacherous attempt to disperse the protest," Sudanese Professionals Association said in a statement, urging their compatriots to come to their rescue.

Activists on the ground have reported slow internet, raising fears there could be a communications blackout across the country. The SPA called for the communications networks to continue the work.

After morning prayers, gunfire cracked

Shortly after morning prayers, as protesters were falling asleep outside the defence ministry, military forces attacked the square in Khartoum where Mr Al Bashir was toppled in April, activists told The National.

A coalition of military forces, including a paramilitary group, began firing live ammunition and tear gas into the crowd and beating protesters with sticks, they said.

After evacuating the area, they burned tents and broke into people’s houses to arrest them, they said.

“It is really awful, it was a bloody morning,” said Marwan Osman, a protester and member of the Sudanese Professional's Association.

Mr Osman said hundreds were injured with the Royal Care Hospital alone receiving 60 injured persons.

“They are behaving the same as the old regime. The old regime is still here,” Mr Osman said. “We feel like we’ve been forced back to square one, to where we were in December.”

Mohammad Al Khair, a professor at Alzaiem Alazhari University, said protesters are determined to continue the fight for a civilian-led government despite the bloodshed and military deterrence of this morning.

“The sit-in is only one weapon of resistance. The military council has silenced one weapon, but there are more.”

Civilian leaders cut ties with military

Protest leaders said the raid had ended talks between the military and civilians and called for civil disobedience across the country. But the military said they wanted talks to resume.

"We will confront it by escalating protests, marches and full civil disobedience," said Khalid Omar Yousef, a leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces.

The Sudanese Professional's Association called for a general strike and mass protests to close roads and bridges until the military council falls.

Witnesses said protesters have blocked roads with stones, bricks and burning tyres in Khartoum.

In Omdurman, Khartoum's twin city, thousands of people have blocked roads with stones and burning tyres, Reuters reported, citing a witness. There were no security forces in area, which sits on the other side of the Nile River from Khartoum, the witness said.

Protests groups urged medical personnel to rush to Khartoum's hospitals and called for blood donations.

Sudan's Transitional Military Council told Sky News Arabia the raid was on "criminal elements" near the protest site, saying they will allow protesters to return to the square.

"We did not disperse the sit-in by force...the tents are there, and the youth are moving freely," Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman for the ruling military council, said.

The Transitional Military Council is committed to talks and was ready to hold a meeting soon, Lieutenant General Shams El Din Kabbashi told Reuters.

Footage showed tents used by the protesters set on fire, as dozens of citizens flee the square. A plume of smoke was shown rising above Khartoum and tyres burning in the streets. Dozens of military truckers were reported patrolling Khartoum neighbourhoods.

Condemnation from western diplomats

The US Embassy in Khartoum said, in a now-deleted tweet, that the Transitional Military Council "cannot responsibly lead the people of Sudan." They re-posted the tweet, condemning the attacks.

The United Kingdom's Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said the attack is "an outrageous step that will only lead to more polarisation and violence."

"It will not help Sudan build the future the people are demanding. The Military Council bears full responsibility for this action and the international community will hold it to account," he added.

The European Union called for a democratic transition.

"We call on the Transitional Military Council to act responsibly and respect people's right to express their concerns," an EU spokeswoman said in a press briefing.

"The European Union's priority remains the rapid transfer of power to a civilian authority," the spokeswoman said.

The British Ambassador in Khartoum said "This. Must. Stop. Now," as he expressed concern at the gunfire.

A key source of information under threat

Reports of a slower internet connection have raised fears that a key form of communication among the opposition will be cut off.

The SPA and other pro-democracy groups have used tweets to share statements, calls to action and moral support.

The social media platform has also been used as a crowdsourcing tool to locate missing friends and family members. Activists have posted lists of injured protesters admitted to Khartoum’s hospitals.

Arabic hashtags that translate as ‘Military Massacre’ and ‘Ramadan Massacre’ in English have helped spread photos and videos of this morning’s clashes.

Omar Al Bashir overthrown

The sit-in has lasted weeks as civilians and military officials argue over the make-up of a transitional government.

The military overthrew ruler Mr Al Bashir in April after mass protests against his 30-year rule, putting the Transitional Military Council in place.

The Council had said it would not use force to disperse the protesters and has not issued a statement about Monday's protest.

Civilians insisted they have a majority in the 11-seat council and lead the body, while the military wanted it to be headed by one of their own.

Protesters insist no elections should be held before three years so that civilian leaders can dissolve all social and political networks of Mr Al Bashir's old party and purge all state institutions.

Last week, the protesters held a two-day general strike seeking to strengthen their hand in the negotiations.

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