Sudan's military blames protesters for deadly crackdown

Remarks come as protesters continue civil disobedience campaign after security forces stormed protest camp on June 3.

    The military council defended the actions of the RSF [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]
    The military council defended the actions of the RSF [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

    Sudan's ruling military has accused the protest movement of escalation as the second day of the opposition's general strike kicked in.

    Opposition and protest groups had called on workers to stay home after security forces stormed a protest camp on June 3, killing dozens and dealing a blow to hopes of a peaceful transition after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April.

    Lieutenant General Jamaleddine Omar, from the ruling military council, said on Monday that by closing off roads and setting up barricades, the protesters committed a crime.

    "The Alliance for Freedom and Change (umbrella protest movement) is fully responsible for recent unfortunate incidents ... including blocking roads which is violating international humanitarian laws," Omar said.

    He said the military and the Rapid Support Forces - the paramilitary group accused of violently dispersing the weeks-long protest camp last week in the capital, Khartoum - have beefed up their presence across the country "to restore life back to normal".

    Meanwhile, protest leaders urged the Sudanese people to continue the general strike, part of a civil disobedience campaign launched on Sunday. It comes after weeks of protests to pressure the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) to hand power over to a civilian-led government.

    Deaths and standstill

    At least four people were killed on Sunday as Sudanese security forces moved to quell the civil disobedience campaign that left streets in Khartoum largely deserted.

    Two people died after being beaten and stabbed and two people were shot dead, said the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), a group affiliated with the protesters, blaming paramilitary groups.

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    Security forces arrested a number of airport officials and employees of Sudan's central bank on Sunday, according to the dpa news agency, citing colleagues of those detained.

    Public transport was barely functioning and most commercial banks, private companies and markets were shut, though some state banks and public utility offices were open.

    Waleed Madibo, from the Sudan Policy Forum, said the campaign is unlikely to bring down the TMC, but it could divide its leaders.

    "By using violence as an imperative, it [the military] left the civic society no option but to go through with civil disobedience. They're already rounding up political dissidents, they started assassinating leaders of the sit-in, and by doing so the Transitional Military Council has totally eliminated any chance of a political outcome," Madibo told Al Jazeera.

    Led by men in army fatigues, the raid on the weeks-long sit-in outside the army complex left more than 100 people dead, according to the CCSD.

    The health ministry, however, said 61 people died in the crackdown, 52 of them by "live ammunition" in Khartoum.

    Mediation talks

    The TMC seized power in April after removing al-Bashir on the back of months-long protests against his nearly 30-year rule.Since then, it has resisted calls from protesters and Western nations to transfer power to a civilian administration.

    Several rounds of talks with the demonstrators finally broke down in mid-May.

    "The Transitional Military Council is not really serious about negotiating with civilians. This could not have been more blatant in the eye of the opposition and it certainly paralyses any effort to move forward in negotiations," Eric Reeves, a researcher on Sudan at Harvard University, told Al Jazeera.

    The call for "civil disobedience" came a day after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Khartoum, seeking to revive talks between the generals and protest leaders on the country's transition.

    Abiy held separate meetings with the two sides in Khartoum on Friday.

    But three members of an opposition delegation who met the Ethiopian prime minister were later arrested, their aides said on Saturday.

    On Monday, state television reported that the three opposition members were released.

    Yasir Arman, deputy chief of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, which is part of the protest movement, was released along with Ismail Jalab and Mubarak Ardol.

    Arman arrived in Khartoum in late May to take part in talks with the ruling generals but was seized two days after the crackdown began.

    He said that along with Jalab and Ardol, they were deported from Khartoum to South Sudan's capital, Juba.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies