At least 30 killed as Sudan military storms Khartoum sit-in

Posted at 6:53 PM, Jun 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-03 18:53:43-04

(CNN) — At least 30 protesters were killed and hundreds injured Monday in Khartoum when the Sudanese military opened fire to break up a sit-in, according to a local doctors’ union.

The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) said critically injured patients are still in operating rooms and intensive care. The Sudanese military has denied any involvement.

Sudanese Attorney General Maulana Al-Walid Sayed Ahmed Mahmoud announced that a committee had been created to investigate “the events” that took place in the area of the armed forces’ general command in Khartoum, state media outlet SUNA reported.

The committee will be made of up of officials — including the heads of public prosecution, senior prosecutors, police representatives and representatives of the military judiciary, the attorney general said.

However, similar vows to investigate protester deaths during the rule of ousted former President Omar al-Bashir were insufficient to appease demonstrators at the time, and the committee’s creation does not appear likely to mollify them now.

Eyewitnesses say security forces shot at protesters

Multiple eyewitnesses told CNN that security forces — the police and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces — shot at protesters with live fire. Several videos also showed security forces beating people with sticks. The Sudanese military has moved to forcibly disperse protesters since April 11.

The CCSD also said earlier on its Facebook account that casualties were hit by “live bullets.” The group said security forces surrounded hospitals where wounded and bodies were taken.

Those killed include an 8-year-old, the CCSD said. It said that more than 116 injured people were in several Khartoum hospitals.

A spokesman for the Sudanese Transitional Council said that the military “didn’t disperse the sit-in by force” but that the security crackdown was instead on a gathering in a nearby “dangerous” area.

Mobile internet was also shut down in Sudan on Monday, several sources on the ground told CNN. Services then partially resumed on MTN — one of Sudan’s three mobile networks — with intermittent and slow connectivity.

Opposition groups have relied heavily on social media to mobilize protesters, helping to unseat al-Bashirin April, then opposing the interim military council that has ruled the country since the coup.

In response, Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the group which has spearheaded the protests, called on people to press on with demonstrations and for telecommunications workers not to “succumb to pressure” by the ruling military council.

Protesters congregated outside the Defense Ministry in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and other main streets.

Burning tires, black smoke and gun shots

Small fires and billowing clouds of black smoke could be seen in video taken in the capital. Other video showed people fleeing as guns went off. Protesters were also seen burning tires after security forces attempted to break up a sit-in.

Deema Alasad, a 25-year-old dentist from Khartoum, who took part in a sit-in outside the military headquarters, said the government’s paramilitary force, as well as members of the intelligence and security services, arrived in the area early in the morning.

“They hit us and then they started shooting live ammunition, after putting the entire sit-in under siege,” she said, describing the gunmen as “snipers.”

One woman, who asked not to be named, filmed video of a man lying on the ground, his arms trying to shield him from the blows of security forces who were beating him with sticks.

“I saw security forces chasing a car and stop it by force at gunpoint and hit the driver and his companion with sticks. And one of them yelled at me to stop recording. I filmed it from my window at 7:23 am,” she told CNN.

Alasad said the protesters were “unarmed civilians.”

“It is our right to protest and our right to express that we don’t accept what is going on,” she said.

Activist Fathi Abdo told CNN he witnessed around 20 people getting shot on Khartoum’s main streets and near army headquarters, where protesters have staged a mass sit-in for months.

Opposition suspends talks

The Sudanese opposition suspended talks with the ruling body after Monday’s crackdown. “We have halted all political communication and negotiations with the putschist council,” said the Declaration of Freedom and Change Alliance — an umbrella group for opposition groups and protest leaders.

“The leaders of this council are criminally responsible for all the bloodshed that took place since April 11th,” the statement added. The opposition leaders vowed to take the generals to court.

The Declaration of Freedom and Change announced a general strike and civil disobedience.

It called on “honorable” members of various security forces to protect the people from the “militias of the putschist council” and to support a civilian transitional authority. They also called on the international community “not to recognize the military coup and to side with the Sudanese revolution.”

Continued protests since Bashir forced out of power

In April, Sudan’s former leader Bashir was arrested and forced out of power in a military coup after the country became engulfed in protests opposing his three-decade rule.

Irfan Siddiq, the British ambassador in Khartoum, called for an end to the violence.

“Extremely concerned by the heavy gunfire I’ve been hearing over the last hour from my residence and reports that Sudanese security forces are attacking the protest sit-in site resulting in casualties,” he said on Twitter. “No excuse for any such attack.”

An interim military council said it would lead the country through a transition period of up to two years, but protesters vowed to remain in the streets until a return to civilian government was guaranteed.

Since then, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the military headquarters. In May, nine people were injured when soldiers stormed a pro-democracy sit-in, eyewitnesses said.

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Originally Published: 03 JUN 19 01:53 ET
Updated: 03 JUN 19 17:34 ET