BFF-29 Sudan denies more than 100 killed in protest crackdown

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SUDAN-UNREST

Sudan denies more than 100 killed in protest crackdown

KHARTOUM, June 6, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Sudanese authorities admitted dozens of
people were killed in a crackdown on protesters but denied doctors’ claims
the death toll has topped 100, as heavily armed paramilitaries guarded the
tense capital.

Members of the Rapid Support Forces, who rights groups say have their
origins in the Janjaweed militias of Darfur, were on the streets of Khartoum
on Thursday in pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns and rocket launchers,
witnesses said.

It follows a raid by security forces Monday on a long-running sit-in
outside the army headquarters that marked the start of a brutal crackdown on
demonstrators demanding civilian rule.

The Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors said Wednesday that 40 bodies
had been pulled from the Nile, sending the death toll soaring to at least
108.

The committee, which is close to protesters and relies on doctors on the
ground for its information, warned the figure could rise.

Some life had returned to the streets of the capital on Thursday, with
limited public transport operating and only a few cars on the roads.

A small number of shops and restaurants were open on the second day of the
Eid al-Fitr holiday.

But there was still widespread disruption around the capital.

At Khartoum’s airport relatives of travellers stayed late into the night
waiting to see if their flights would arrive, following a slew of
cancellations over the past few days.

Internet blackouts continued to beset the city.

The military ousted longtime president Omar al-Bashir in April after
months of protests against his authoritarian rule, but thousands of
demonstrators had remained camped out in front of the army headquarters
calling for the generals to cede power to civilians.

Despite several initial breakthroughs, talks between the ruling military
council that took power after Bashir’s ouster and protest leaders reached a
deadlock over who should head a new governing body.

On Monday, security forces moved in to disperse the weeks-long rally
outside the army headquarters.

As international condemnation mounted, the health ministry said “no more
than 46” people had been killed in “recent events”.

– ‘Extreme caution’ –

The United Nations and the British embassy announced they were pulling
non-essential staff from Sudan, and the United States warned its citizens to
exercise “extreme caution” amid the ongoing uncertainty.

Despite the heavy presence of security forces on Khartoum’s main streets,
the groups that spearheaded the demonstrations against Bashir made a fresh
call on Thursday for civil disobedience.

“The revolution continues and our people are victorious despite the
terrorism and violence of the militias,” the Sudanese Professionals
Association, the group that initially launched the anti-Bashir campaign,
posted on Twitter.

It urged an “indefinite strike and civil disobedience,” warning against
calls for violence.

In the northern suburb of Bahri, connecting and smaller roads in the
neighbourhood were blocked by protesters putting up makeshift barricades made
from rocks, bricks and tree trunks.

The protesters blamed the bloody crackdown on the “militias” of the
military council.

The Rapid Support Forces have been singled out by protesters.

Heavily deployed in the streets of the capital, some residents seemed wary
of the paramilitaries as they moved around the streets.

RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as “Himediti,” said he
was on the side of the “revolutionaries,” but warned he would not “allow
chaos,” referring specifically to the barricades put up in some
neighbourhoods.

The ruling Military Council issued a statement hitting out at the
“campaign organised on social media aimed at spreading lies and fabricating
accusations.”

It claimed the RSF “refused to carry out the orders of the former regime
to expel demonstrators from the sit-in by force.”

The armed forces also issued a statement urging citizens to stay away from
military sites, without giving a reason.

African and Western governments have been strongly supportive of the
protesters but Arab governments, led by Saudi Arabia, have backed the
military rulers.

The United Arab Emirates urged resumed talks to “realise the aspirations
of the brotherly people of Sudan,” echoing a call by its ally Saudi Arabia a
day earlier.

BSS/AFP/ARS/1818 hrs