Sudan army deploys as protesters keep pressure on Bashir

Sudan army deploys as protesters keep pressure on Bashir
Several military vehicles carrying intelligence agency members and riot police arrived in the early hours Monday at the protest site, witnesses confirmed.
3 min read
08 April, 2019
Thousands of protesters gathered outside the military HQ [Getty]

Sudan's army on Monday deployed troops around its headquarters in Khartoum and blocked several roads leading to the complex, where protesters have massed demanding President Omar al-Bashir resign, witnesses said.

Witnesses said soldiers put up barricades in streets near the compound, where thousands of protesters have been demonstrating outside since Saturday urging the army to back them.

Several vehicles carrying intelligence agency members and riot police arrived in the early hours Monday at the protest site, witnesses told AFP.

"After that, security forces began firing tear gas at protesters," a witness said on condition of anonymity.

Gunshots were also heard, witnesses said, but it was not clear who fired the shots.  

The gas was felt by residents in an upscale Khartoum district some five kilometres away from the army complex.

"I stepped out on my balcony hearing the sound of the gas canisters and could feel the gas in the air," said one resident.

A few hours later security personnel again fired tear gas at the demonstrators, witnesses said.

Protest organisers urged the residents of Khartoum and nearby areas to join the demonstrators who have been on the streets for three days straight.

"Security forces of the regime are trying to disperse the sit-in by force," the organisers called the Alliance for Freedom and Change said in a statement.

"We call on all people around Khartoum to gather there to protect our people on the ground."

Since protests erupted across Sudan in December security agents and riot police have cracked down on demonstrators, but the army has so far not intervened.

On Saturday,  more than half-a-million people to gather outside the military headquarters before the military staged an attack on the demonstrators in the late afternoon.

"With the dawn of freedom and the continuation of our sit-in for the second consecutive day in front of the General Command of our glorious army, there are exposed plans from the security services and loyalists to the army leaders to disperse the crowds and empty the sit-in, but the crowds will withstand with the steadfastness of revolutionaries," stated the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the main protest organiser since demonstrations erupted in mid-December.

The SPA also called on others to join the sit-in outside the General Command, as well as protests in other areas across Sudan.

Six people were killed on Saturday and Sunday in the early hours across Sudan.

Four men were shot during a brief window between 2am and 3am on Sunday morning when while attending the security services attempted to disperse the overnight sit-in in Khartoum with tear gas and live bullets.

Another man was killed in Omdurman on Saturday, and a woman was shot and killed by security forces at a refugee camp in Central Darfur.

Sudanese social media users are concerned that shows of support by the lower ranks constituted a calm before the storm, and that a full-scale attack on the sit-in was impending.

Anti-regime protests began in mid-December when a government decision to cut food surpluses led to tripled bread prices, exacerbating the drastic financial situation of many in a country which many Sudanese say has been dogged by corruption, economic mismanagement and human rights abuses.

The protests quickly spread across the country and took on a broader political message - calling on Bashir to step down and allow the formation of a democratic transitional government.

Sudanese officials claim 30 people have died in protest-related violence - a tally which has not increased for more than two months - but activists say at least 66 have died. They also say some of those killed died under torture.

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