Sudan's ruling military identifies 'mastermind' of brutal massacre

Sudan's ruling military identifies 'mastermind' of brutal massacre
A top Sudanese general said the mastermind behind a deadly crackdown on protesters has been identified, but refused to name him saying it would impact a probe into the raid.
4 min read
20 June, 2019
More than 100 people were killed in the deadly assault on protesters [Getty]
The mastermind behind a deadly crackdown on protesters in Sudan that caused international uproar earlier this month has been identified, a top Sudanese general said on Thursday, though the official fell short of naming the suspect for fear of affecting a probe into the massacre.

Protesters and witnesses allege that the 3 June crackdown, which saw crowds of protesters violently dispersed by men in military uniforms, was carried out by members of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), whose commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is the deputy chief of the country's ruling military council.

But Dagalo, widely known as Himeidti, said on Thursday that an investigation into the crackdown has so far led to the identity of the man who planned the raid.

"We have identified the man responsible" for dispersing the protest camp, Dagalo said without naming the individual, adding "there's no need to impact the investigation".

"Whoever it is, whether from regular forces or a civilian, will be brought to trial. The investigation will be transparent and the trial will be public."

The military council has steadfastly denied it had ordered the dispersal of the sit-in and on Thursday defended the RSF saying anybody could wear the unit's uniform as it was easily available in the market.

"We arrested a general yesterday for distributing IDs of the RSF," Dagalo said.

"We have also arrested 23 people in Port Sudan who were not RSF members but who were wearing RSF uniforms and checking people."

Dozens were killed and hundreds wounded in the 3 June crackdown, launched days after protest leaders and generals failed to reach an agreement over who should head a new governing body - a civilian or soldier.

The generals, who seized power after the army ousted longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir on 11 April following a popular uprising, have so far resisted to transfer power to a civilian administration.

In-depth: Why is everyone on social media changing their profile pictures into blue?

On Wednesday, the chief of the military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan called on protest leaders to resume talks without any conditions.

Protest leaders have expressed readiness to resume talks but on certain conditions.

They insist an internet blackout imposed after they launched a civil disobedience campaign this month be brought to an end.

They are also seeking an international probe into the killings and the acceptance of all earlier agreements reached in previous negotiations with the generals prior to the crackdown.

The killings sparked a wave of international condemnation despite the ruling military council distancing itself from the events.

Britain backs protesters

On Thursday, the UK's envoy to Khartoum urged Sudan's ruling generals to swiftly hand power to civilians to regain the trust they lost after the deadly crackdown on protesters.

Irfan Siddiq, the UK's ambassador to Khartoum and a leading advocate of civilian rule in Sudan, said the military council was ultimately responsible.

"At the end of the day, it is the security forces who conducted these raids and led to the killings of the people," Siddiq told AFP in an interview at his official residence in Khartoum.

"Therefore, the military council bears responsiblity for taking the steps to build and rebuild the trust and confidence that would enable the civilian transition to occur."

The military council has expressed "regret" over what happened but insists it had only ordered the clearing of an area near the protest camp where drug dealers had reportedly operated.

The initial findings of a military investigation showed that "officers and soldiers of different ranks and regular forces" had entered the sit-in itself without orders from their superiors, the investigating committee said.

Siddiq, a fluent Arabic speaker who began his Khartoum posting in April 2018, said the international community was waiting for the committee's report.

Comment: Two revolutions, one struggle: As Algerians, we stand with Sudan

"But until that happens... the military council is responsible for security and therefore it's responsible for what happened," he said.

"Therefore, I think we need to see measures from the military council that build trust, build confidence" among the Sudanese public and the international community, he added.

Minutes after the assault began, Siddiq, whose residence is near the army headquarters, had heard gunshots and raised the alarm on social media.

"No excuse for any such attack. This. Must. Stop. Now," he tweeted as the operation was in progress.

He said he had heard the attack taking place at 5am on 3 June.

"I could hear the shooting and it seemed to me that it was pretty clear to me what was happening, which is why I made my statement," he said.

"Unfortunately, the killing happened and a lot of people lost their lives and there has been trust that has been lost."

London summoned Sudan's ambassador following the killings, and Khartoum retaliated in kind by summoning Siddiq.

The envoy warned that if the generals fail to hand power to civilians, Sudan's international relations would continue to suffer.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab