Sudan protesters tear down roadblocks, want army to resume talks

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A Sudanese protester spreads a banner with the colours of the national flag near the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on May 17, 2019, during an ongoing sit-in demanding a civilian-led government transition. (AFP)
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Sudanese protesters attend the Friday prayers near the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on May 17, 2019, during an ongoing sit-in demanding a civilian-led government transition. (AFP)
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Sudanese protesters attend the Friday prayers near the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on May 17, 2019, during an ongoing sit-in demanding a civilian-led government transition. (AFP)
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Sudanese protesters wave a national flag as they attend the Friday prayers near the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on May 17, 2019, during an ongoing sit-in demanding a civilian-led government transition. (AFP)
Updated 17 May 2019
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Sudan protesters tear down roadblocks, want army to resume talks

  • On Friday, Sudanese protesters attended prayers at the sit-in outside the military headquarters, sitting on mats placed in rows on the street
  • General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan demanded that protesters dismantle roadblocks, open bridges and railway lines connecting the capital

KHARTOUM: Hundreds of demonstrators worked to clear away bricks and debris Friday, after military rulers demanded that roadblocks which have paralysed parts of Khartoum be dismantled before talks on a new transitional body can resume.
The ruling military council suspended crucial talks Wednesday with protest leaders for 72 hours, insisting that the security in the capital had deteriorated after demonstrators erected roadblocks on several avenues.
The council's decision came as army generals and protest leaders were due to meet to finalise the make-up of a new body to govern Sudan for a transitional period of three years.
The issue is the thorniest to have come up in ongoing talks on installing civilian rule after the generals took over following the ouster of autocratic president Omar al-Bashir last month.
But for the final talks to happen the military council chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, demanded that protesters dismantle roadblocks, open bridges and railway lines connecting the capital and "stop provoking security forces".
In the early hours of Friday, hundreds of demonstrators chanting revolutionary slogans tore down roadblocks on Nile Street, a key avenue, that had paralysed downtown Khartoum this week.
"We have removed the bricks... but if they do not respond to our demands then we will bring the bricks again," protester Sumeya Abdrahman told AFP while demonstrators cleared the debris.
Later on Friday an AFP correspondent who toured the area saw car traffic resume normally on Nile Street.
Protesters had erected the barricades to pressure the military rulers when talks began on Monday, but the roadblocks triggered clashes between demonstrators and security forces according to witnesses.
The military council said roadblocks are "totally unacceptable", but the generals will allow barricades set up by protesters outside the army headquarters to remain and a sit-in there to continue.
Talks between the two sides achieved significant breakthroughs on Monday, but were marred by violence which left five protesters and an army major dead.
Protesters blamed the paramilitary Rapid Support Force, but Burhan said there were "armed elements among demonstrators who were shooting at security forces".
On Friday, Sudanese protesters attended prayers at the sit-in outside the military headquarters, sitting on mats placed in rows on the street.
"We have all the respect for the army and the RSF. They are our partners in the revolution," said the prayer leader as teenagers sprinkled water on worshippers gathered under the scorching sun.
As the prayers ended, worshippers chanted "freedom, peace, justice," the catchcry of the protest movement that brought down Bashir.
Women worshippers, who offered prayers in separate tents chanted: "Peaceful, peaceful! Civilian, Civilian," referring to the protesters' demand for civilian rule.
"I don't care about the heat ... What I care about is to finish this thing (the political impasse)," said protester Mohamed Ismail as he poured cold water on his head to get relieve from the mid-day sun.
The Alliance for Freedom and Change, which is leading the protest movement, said the move to suspend talks was "regrettable".
"It ignores the developments achieved in negotiations so far... and the fact that Wednesday's meeting was to finalise the agreement, which would have stopped the escalations such as roadblocks."
The protest movement vowed to press on with the sit-in, and has urged supporters to converge at the army headquarters where thousands have been camped out for weeks.
Protesters are demanding a civilian-led transition, which the generals have steadfastly resisted since bowing to demonstrators' demands in toppling Bashir.
During the first two days of talks the two sides had agreed on an overall civilian structure, including a three-year period for the full transfer of power to a civilian administration.
They had also agreed that parliament be composed of 300 members for the transition, with around two-thirds from the protest alliance and the rest drawn from other political groups.
But the make-up of the new sovereign council has been the toughest part of the negotiations, with the two sides so far proposing different compositions of the body.
The council is expected to take all key decisions concerning national issues and the generals want it to be military-led, while the protesters insist it have a civilian majority.
The body is expected to form a transitional civilian government, which would then prepare for the first post-Bashir election after changeover period ends.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.