Two Sudanese protesters killed in crackdown on anti-coup rallies
Sudanese security forces shot dead two protesters on Monday in a crackdown on rallies against last year's military coup and the arrest of scores of pro-democracy activists, medics said.
Regular mass protests have rocked the troubled northeast African nation since an October 25 military takeover led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the deaths on Monday take the number killed in the unrest to at least 81.
The power grab derailed a fragile power-sharing agreement between the army and civilians negotiated after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
On Monday, thousands rallied in the capital Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, AFP reporters said, while protests also took place in the eastern city of Port Sudan and in the western Darfur region, according to witnesses.
In Khartoum, protests had begun with crowds waving national flags and carrying red balloons, as the rallies coincided with Valentine's Day.
"Today is the nation's love day," one banner read.
Some shouted slogans demanding the authorities release activists who had been arrested, while others carried pictures of protesters killed.
"We are demanding the release of resistance committee members and politicians who were unjustly arrested, and some of whom are facing fabricated charges," protester Khaled Mohamed told AFP.
But as crowds tried to approach the presidential palace, security forces fired volleys of tear gas canisters.
One protester was killed after he was shot in "the neck and chest by live rounds by coup forces" in Khartoum, the independent Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said.
Another protester was later killed in Omdurman after being struck by "live bullets to the left shoulder which penetrated the chest", the committee said.
Sudanese police said in a statement that at least 102 police were "severely wounded" while one suffered "a gunshot to the foot."
It also noted that protesters have "smashed the front" of the parliament building, set a fire near an adjacent gas station, and damaged several vehicles and a mosque in Omdurman.
Damage was also reported to several parts of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in the city, and items belonging to security guards were looted, it said, adding that police only "excercised the reasonable legitimate force" in response.
While Sudanese forces have repeatedly denied opening fire on protesters, Human Rights Watch has quoted witnesses detailing how the security forces have used both "live ammunition" and fired tear gas canisters "directly" at crowds, a tactic that can be deadly at close quarters.
The authorities have also arrested scores of activists accused of belonging to the "resistance committees" that have been instrumental in organising protests.
"The number of people detained arbitrarily and without criminal charges has exceeded 100," the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said Monday.
In Khartoum's Soba prison, detainees launched a hunger strike to protest against prison conditions, the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said.
"Some have been detained without facing charges, and others still await investigations," the medics said in a statement.
On Sunday, authorities arrested Mohamed al-Fekki, a civilian former member of the ruling Sovereign Council, which led the country under the now stalled 2019 power-sharing agreement.
Last week, authorities arrested ex-minister Khaled Omar Youssef and Wagdi Saleh, the spokesman of Sudan's main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC).
Those arrests came just a day after they joined an FFC delegation for talks with UN special representative Volker Perthes, as part of efforts to resolve Sudan's deepening crisis.
The October military power grab, the latest coup in Sudan since its independence, has sparked widespread international condemnation and punitive measures - but authorities have shown little inclination to compromise.
On Monday, Burhan met the Emirati ambassador to Sudan, who handed him an official invitation from President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to visit the United Arab Emirates, according to an official statement by Sudan's Sovereign Council.
The UAE has, along with the US and Britain, called for the restoration of the civilian-led transition in Sudan.