3rd June, 2019
Sudan’s military rulers forcefully broke up a sit-in that has lasted weeks outside Khartoum’s army headquarters on Monday leaving at least 13 dead and dozens wounded, protesters said.
Heavily armed members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces were deployed in large numbers along the capital’s main roads.
Manning pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns, they guarded the entrances to the bridges that cross the Nile and moved in convoys around the city ahead of evening prayers.
The United States and Britain called for an end to the crackdown on protesters, who want the generals behind the overthrow of veteran president Omar al-Bashir to hand over to civilian rule.
“According to initial estimates, we lost 13 martyrs to the bullets” of the military council, the Alliance of Freedom and Change umbrella protest group said, adding that “hundreds” were wounded.
An eight-year-old child was among those killed, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is close to the demonstrators.
It reported a “large number of critical casualties” and called for “urgent support” from the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations to help the wounded.
Beyond the heavy presence of security forces, the streets of the capital were largely empty Monday afternoon, with sporadic cars circulating and a few people walking, because public transport had shut down, an AFP correspondent said.
Many streets remained blocked off by demonstrators who had erected barricades made from stones, tree trunks and burning tyres, although the protesters had departed.
Many shops, pharmacies and businesses were shuttered around the city.
The military council denied its forces violently dispersed the sit-in in front of army headquarters, as demonstrators took to the streets in towns elsewhere in the country.
But protest leaders said the main protest site in Khartoum had been cleared.
“The Rapid Support Forces and the army and police and militia battalions dispersed the peaceful sit-in,” the Alliance for Freedom and Change said in a statement.
Outside the army headquarters “there is no one, but the pure bodies of our martyrs that it has not been possible to evacuate from the site”.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which spearheaded nationwide protests that started in December, said Monday’s crackdown amounted to a “bloody massacre”.
It called on Sudanese to take part in “total civil disobedience” to topple the military council.
The doctors’ committee said forces had opened fire inside the city’s East Nile Hospital and had chased “peaceful protesters”.
It said another hospital near the site of the sit-in had been surrounded and that volunteers were prevented from reaching it.
Rallies against Bashir’s authoritarian, three-decade rule led to his ouster in April, but protesters had remained outside the army headquarters calling on the generals to cede power to a transitional authority.
Near the demonstration site, a witness living in the Burri neighbourhood said he could “hear the sound of gunfire and I see a plume of smoke rising from the area of the sit-in.”
Another resident of the area, in east Khartoum, said he had seen forces in “police uniform” trying to expel the demonstrators.
The military council “did not disperse the sit-in by force,” its spokesman said.
“The tents are there, and the youth are moving freely,” Shamseddine Kabbashi told Sky News Arabia.