In this image made from video, Police officers running down a street in Khartoum, Sudan, on Monday, June 3, 2019. Sudanese security forces moved against a protest sit-in camp in the capital Monday, witnesses and protest organizers said. Machine gun fire and explosions were heard and smoke rose from the area. Protest organizers said at least two people were killed. (Elmontasir Darwish via AP)
KHARTOUM, June 3: Sudanese security forces have moved against a protest sit-in camp in the capital Monday, besieging the site and setting fire to tents, witnesses and protest leaders said. Machine gun fire and explosions were heard and smoke rose from the area.
Protest organizers said at least five people were killed.
The military’s move came after a weeks-long standoff with protesters seeking a speedy transition to civilian rule following the April ouster of long-time strongman Omar al-Bashir.
Dura Gambo, an activist, said large numbers of troops had besieged the sit-in area outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum on Monday and arrested protesters trying to leave.
“They have used the heavy rain yesterday and moved in the early morning to disperse people,” she said.
Amal al-Zein, another activist, said security forces set fire to the tents in sit-in area. “They are surrounding the sit-in from all directions,” she said.
The Sudan Doctors’ Committee said at least five people were killed early Monday and an unspecified but high number had been wounded. The group said medical personnel and injured people were trapped in clinics in the area, and demanded that they be allowed to leave.
Earlier, a statement by protest leaders said the military is trying to disperse the sit-in, and urged supporters to come to the area.
“The protesters holding a sit-in in front of the army general command are facing a massacre in a treacherous attempt to break up our sit-in,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been spearheading the protests against al-Bashir and the military rulers since late last year.
The SPA called Monday for the Sudanese people to take part in “total civil disobedience.” The Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which is representing the protesters in transition negotiations with the ruling generals, called for toppling the military council and urged people to take to the streets in protest.
An Associated Press journalist saw buses and soldiers on foot blocking roads leading to the protest site. Civilians were not allowed to walk in the streets, including women and children.
Videos circulating online appeared to show protesters standing at low brick barricades in the street, then being driven back by walls of blue-clad security forces carrying sticks.
Other videos showed protesters running through streets lined with sit-in tents, heads down, as the sound of gunfire filled the air.
Tens of thousands of protesters have been camped since April 6 outside the military’s headquarters, the epicenter of Sudan’s uprising that led to the military overthrow of al-Bashir.
Protesters vowed to remain in the streets after Bashir’s ouster, saying an end to his 30-year rule did not go far enough.
Protest leaders and military officials have been negotiating over the makeup of a transitional government, as protesters call for “limited military representation” in a sovereign council that would lead the country as it transitions to civilian rule over three years.
Both sides are split over the makeup and leadership of the council, with the ruling generals refusing to relinquish power.