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Sudan protesters reject army election plan after deadly crackdown

Khartoum, Sudan, Jun 3 – Sudan’s protest movement called Tuesday for fresh rallies and rejected the military rulers’ election plan after nearly 40 people were killed in what demonstrators called a “bloody massacre” by security forces.

Protest leaders called on their supporters to take part in “total civil disobedience” to topple the ruling military council following the deadly dispersal Monday of a weeks-long sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum.

The Transitional Military Council ousted veteran president Omar al-Bashir in April after months of protests against his authoritarian rule and had agreed a three-year transition period to a civilian administration.

But army ruler General Abel Fattah al-Burhan said the plan had been ditched and an election would take place under “regional and international supervision”.

Close-up map of Khartoum © AFP / Vincent LEFAI

“The military council decides on the following: cancelling what was agreed on and stopping negotiating with the Alliance for Freedom and Change, and to call for general elections within a period not exceeding nine months,” Burhan said.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which spearheaded protests against Bashir, rejected the call.

“It’s not the putschist council, nor its militias, nor its leaders who decide the fate of the people, nor how it will transition to a civilian government,” it said.

– Eid prayers for ‘martyrs’ –

The SPA said Monday’s action against the sit-in amounted to a “bloody massacre”.

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It urged the global community “to isolate and stop dealing with the so-called military council”.

The Transitional Military Council said it “regrets” the events, calling it a “clean-up operation” that went wrong.

Tensions remained high across Khartoum with heavily armed members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, thought to have been largely behind the crackdown, deployed in large numbers.

Despite the security presence and internet outages, residents of some areas of the capital still came out to mark the Eid al-Fitr festival a day early and to protest.

The SPA had urged people to hold Eid prayers to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Tuesday to “pray for the martyrs” and then “demonstrate peacefully”.

In Omdurman, just across the Nile from Khartoum, a witness said by phone that the Rapid Support Forces were trying to disperse demonstrators who had put up barricades by “firing live rounds in the air”.

“We gathered in our square as we usually do every year but the Rapid Support Forces and the police fired teargas and soundbombs at us and after the prayers the youth closed the main street by putting up barricades,” a resident of the Bahri area told AFP.

Other streets around the city centre were almost deserted, with many markets and shops closed and almost no cars on the roads.

Flights into Khartoum were disrupted as airlines monitored developments on the ground.

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– ‘Brutal’ crackdown –

The United States, Britain and Norway issued a joint statement on Tuesday condemning the military’s election plan.

“The people of Sudan deserve an orderly transition, led by civilians, that can establish the conditions for free and fair elections, rather than have rushed elections imposed by the TMC’s security forces,” they said.

UN chief Antonio Guterres condemned the excessive use of force and called for an independent investigation.

The UN Security Council will meet behind closed doors on Tuesday to discuss Sudan, diplomats said.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is close to the protesters, said Monday’s toll had risen to more than 35, including an eight-year-old child, with “hundreds” wounded.

It said a total of 40 people had been killed on Monday and Tuesday, mostly at the sit-in.

One of the dead was an 18-year-old killed on Tuesday “by the bullets of the military council’s militias” in the southern town of Rebek.

The SPA also urged an independent investigation “under international supervision into the massacre that happened yesterday morning,” spokesperson Amjad Farid told AFP.

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The Sudanese Doctors Union Tuesday accused security forces of attacks on hospitals and staff across the country, and alleged some women had been raped in an area of the capital without giving details of how the group had learned of the assaults.

Protest leaders said the large square outside army HQ where demonstrators had camped out day and night since April 6 had been cleared.

– Arab support for army –

African and Western governments have been strongly supportive of the protesters but Arab governments, led by Saudi Arabia, have backed the military rulers.

Moussa Faki, head of the African Union Commission, urged “an immediate and transparent investigation in order to hold all those responsible accountable”.

But Arab governments called for renewed talks between protesters and the military.

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