Sudanese security forces have killed at least three protesters during rallies against last year’s military coup, medics and an activist have said, before a visit by US diplomats seeking to revive a transition to civilian rule.
Thousands of protesters demonstrating against military rule marched towards the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum on Monday, drawing volleys of tear gas from security forces.
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The protesters, who gathered some 2km (1.25 miles) from the palace, blocked a main road in the Al Diyum neighbourhood and burned tires before starting their march.
Huge crowds have regularly taken to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule since the military coup on October 25 ended a power-sharing arrangement that began after longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was removed from power amid a popular uprising in April 2019.
The military takeover triggered wide international condemnation and derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule following al-Bashir’s removal.
Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said at least seven protesters were killed by security forces and dozens of others wounded
Activist Nazim Sirag said seven protesters were killed when security forces opened fire to break up several marches in the capital, including in the area around the presidential palace.
The seven killings on Monday bring to 71 the death toll of protesters killed since the October coup led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
The pro-democracy movement condemned Monday’s deadly shootings and called for a two-day civil disobedience campaign over the security forces’ actions.
Faisal Saleh, a former information minister and Hamdok’s advisor, said the killings were “a full-fledged crime,” and urged the international community to act.
“The Sudanese people do not face an arbitrary government or authority, but rather a criminal gang that kills the youth of Sudan in cold blood, and the whole world is watching,” Saleh wrote on Twitter.
The United Nations condemned “the use of lethal force against demonstrators,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said later Monday.
“Whether it’s in Khartoum or other places, people have a right to demonstrate peacefully,” he added.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from the capital, Khartoum, said protesters are trying to keep up the momentum “by turning out in the thousands on the streets to show the military that they want whatever initiative that is going to result in a pure, civilian government.
“They say that is what they have been demanding and despite the ‘brutal and excessive use of force’, as the United Nations termed it, they will continue protesting. They have scheduled more protests in the coming days,” Morgan said.
On Thursday, Sudanese authorities said protesters stabbed to death a police general, the first death among security forces.
Authorities have repeatedly denied using live ammunition in confronting demonstrators and insist dozens of security personnel have been wounded during protests that have often “deviated from peacefulness”.
The latest rallies took place as the United States envoy to the Horn of Africa David Satterfield and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee are expected in the Sudanese capital this week.
Starting Monday in Riyadh, Satterfield and Phee were to meet the Friends of Sudan, a group calling for the restoration of the country’s transitional government.
The meeting aims to “marshal international support” for the UN mission to “facilitate a renewed civilian-led transition to democracy” in Sudan, the US Department of State said.
The diplomats then travel to Khartoum for meetings with pro-democracy activists, civic groups, military and political figures.
“Their message will be clear: The United States is committed to freedom, peace, and justice for the Sudanese people,” the Department of State said.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that a new charges d’affaires Lucy Tamlyn will head the embassy in Khartoum to serve “during this critical juncture in Sudan’s democratic transition”.
The UN last week said it will launch talks involving political, military and social actors to help resolve the crisis.
The mainstream civilian faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the leading civilian pro-democracy group, has said it would accept the UN offer for talks if it revives the transition to civilian rule.
Proposed talks have been welcomed by the ruling Sovereign Council, which al-Burhan re-staffed following the coup with himself as chairman.
Morgan said the UN in Sudan has been trying to bring together “the various stakeholders … to try to reach some kind of a consensus so that all sides can go to a negotiating table.
“The UN has admitted this will take weeks before anything materialises if this move is successful and this all comes just hours before a visit is expected by senior US officials,” Morgan said.
Burhan has insisted that the military takeover “was not a coup” but only meant to “rectify” the course of the post-Bashir transition.
Earlier this month, Sudan’s civilian prime minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned saying the country was now at a “dangerous crossroads threatening its very survival”.