Sudanese block streets after day of protest violence

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  • Abdalla Hamdok
    Sudanese public administrator and prime minister

Sudanese pro-democracy demonstrators blocked streets in Khartoum on Friday, protesting against violence a day earlier that left five people dead and sparked condemnation.

Protesters barricaded roads in the east Khartoum district of Burri as well as in nearby Khartoum North using rocks, tree branches and tyres, an AFP journalist reported.

Sudan has been gripped by turmoil since military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan launched a coup on October 25 and detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Hamdok was reinstated on November 21, but mass protests have continued as demonstrators distrust Burhan's promises of seeking to guide the country toward full democracy.

As the authorities on Thursday cut off communications across the country, security forces clamped down on demonstrations, firing live rounds and tear gas as tens of thousands gathered in Khartoum and its neighbouring cities.

Four protesters were fatally shot in the head or chest in Omdurman, according to the pro-democracy Doctors' Committee, while a fifth succumbed to his wounds Friday after he was shot in central Khartoum.

Protesters charge that the deal to reinstate Hamdok simply aims to give the cloak of legitimacy to the generals, whom they accuse of trying to continue the regime built by former autocratic president Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in 2019 following mass protests.

- Resignations -

A civilian member recently appointed to the ruling Sovereign Council, Abdel Baqi Abdel Qader, announced that he intends to resign.

He said he had sent a message to Burhan's office requesting a meeting "to present to him my resignation... over the violence against demonstrators".

Interim health minister Haitham Mohammed also announced his resignation in a letter made public, denouncing attacks on medics and hospitals treating protesters.

Two journalists from Saudi Arabia's Asharq television channel, Maha al-Talb and Sally Othman, were released after they and their crews were held for several hours, the channel said.

Police had also stormed the bureau of the Al-Arabiya television network funded by Saudi Arabia -- seen as a traditional ally of Sudan's military leaders.

The violence and attacks on the media drew widespread condemnation.

"Deeply troubled by reports that Sudanese security forces used lethal force against protesters, blacked out the internet, and attempted to shut down media outlets," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted after Thursday's events.

The Doctors' Committee has accused security forces of blocking ambulances and of forcibly removing at least one seriously injured protester from an ambulance.

Videos have circulated on social media showing men in uniform beating protesters with sticks.

- 'International solidarity' -

The Sudanese Communist Party called for "urgent international solidarity to demand an end to the bloody repression in Sudan and the immediate release of all political detainees".

Christian figures in the country announced the cancellation of New Year's celebrations in memory of Thursday's victims.

Protesters have renewed demands that the military "return to their barracks" as promised in 2019 when Bashir was toppled and the country came under the control of the Sovereign Council, a body composed of both civilian and military figures, headed by Burhan.

A police spokesman had said four people died in Thursday's unrest and 297 people were injured, "including 49 police officers".

He also said "three police vans were set on fire" and accused protest leaders of having sought to "turn a peaceful march into violence and confrontations with the security forces".

An adviser to Burhan told the state news agency that "the demonstrations are a waste of time and energy" and would not lead to a political solution.

The bloody crackdown since the October coup has claimed 53 lives and left hundreds wounded.

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