Seven dead as Sudan mass sit-in enters fourth day as troops clash with regime militias

Seven dead as Sudan mass sit-in enters fourth day as troops clash with regime militias
A mass sit-in by thousands of protesters in Sudan is continuing into its fourth day as five demonstrators and two soldiers overnight were killed on Tuesday by the early afternoon.
4 min read
09 April, 2019
Thousands of protesters have been gathered outside the army headquarters in Khartoum since Saturday [AFP]
At least five demonstrators and two soldiers in Sudan were reported killed by Tuesday afternoon at a sit-in outside Khartoum's Army General Command, as the mass protest continues into its fourth consecutive day.

Members of the Sudanese army continued to intervene against state security forces and regime-linked militias to protect protesters, activists reported.

At least three demonstrators and two soldiers were killed by the security forces at the sit-in on Tuesday morning, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said.

The CCSD later announced that two more demonstrators had been killed at the sit-in.

Thousands of protesters opposed to the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir have been gathered outside the Army General Command in the capital Khartoum for four days.

Activists have called for more people to join the sit-in, which continue to yield growing numbers, eyewitnesses say, with the current rally the largest since protests began on 19 December.

Protesters have called on the army to pick a side after more than three months of widespread and popular protests against Bashir - the people or the regime.

Sudanese security forces early on Tuesday fired tear gas at demonstrators in another attempt to disperse the protesters. The security forces have tried and failed since Saturday, when the sit-in began, to disperse demonstrators with tear gas and rubber and live bullets.

Many of those attacks on the peaceful protesters have come during the dead of night.

Members of the army have now repeatedly intervened to protect protesters, eyewitnesses say. Videos distributed on social media also corroborate those reports.

Members of the military on Tuesday opened one of the general command buildings and allowed protesters to shelter from tear gas there, activists said.

"There was heavy firing of tear gas after which army soldiers opened the gates of the compound for protesters to enter," a witness told AFP. Eyewitness reports on social media said that members of the navy had opened the naval headquarters building for demonstrators.

"A few minutes later a group of soldiers fired gunshots in the air to push back the security forces who were firing tear gas."

Low-ranking soldiers have been disobeying orders in order to protect demonstrators, activists have speculated.

Two soldiers were shot dead by regime-linked militias while trying to defend protesters on Tuesday morning, the CCSD announced without naming the soldiers.

Four demonstrators were also killed by regime-linked militias and the security forces in the early hours of the morning, the anti-regime doctors association said.

Al-Nadhir Abdulbaqi of Omdurman died after sustaining a bullet wound to the chest, as did another man whose identity is unknown.

The CCSD also announced the deaths of an unnamed medical professional, who had been treating the wounded, and Othman Jumaa Abdullah, a 20-year-old protester it said was shot dead by the security forces in Omdurman.

Two more demonstrators had been killed by the early afternoon, the CCSD said.

These latest deaths mean at least 15 people, including three soldiers, have been killed since the beginning of the sit-in on Saturday, according to activists.

The group also called on doctors and other medical professionals to come to the Royal Care Hospital in Khartoum, where it said a "large number" of wounded protesters were in urgent need of treatment.

Activists speculated that Bashir on Monday delegated the duty of dispersing the demonstrators to Ahmed Haroun, who was appointed leader of the ruling Congress Party in March.

Haroun, like Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

As the interior minister at the time of the Darfur conflict, Haroun allegedly recruited, funded and armed the Janjaweed militias who have been widely accused of mass murder, rape and torture.

"Islamists headed by Ahmed Haroun have decided to attack the sit-in using their civilian militias and NISS [security] forces. They are planning to use excessive force and violence to spread fear and disperse the sit-in in order to break the peacefulness of this uprising," the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said in a statement on Monday.

"This highly increases the risk of civilian casualties," the SPA, the main protest organiser since mid-December, said.