Sudan holds ‘million-strong’ protest march

Sudanese protesters wave the national flag during a "million-strong" march outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 25 April 2019

Sudan holds ‘million-strong’ protest march

  • Rally outside the army headquarters comes after the military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee

KHARTOUM: Tens of thousands of protesters converged from all directions on Sudan’s army headquarters Thursday after calls for a “million-strong” demonstration to demand the ruling military council cede power.
The day after three council members resigned following talks with protest organizers, demonstrators flocked toward the central Khartoum site Thursday evening, beating drums and singing revolutionary songs, said an AFP journalist at the scene.
“We want the military council out. We want a civilian government,” said protester Adam Ahmed, a medical student.
The rally came after Sudan’s new military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee, to chart the way forward two weeks after the ouster of veteran president Omar Al-Bashir.
The Alliance for Freedom and Change, an umbrella group leading the protests, had called for a million-strong march to “continue to protect our revolution and to ensure that all our demands are achieved.”
Many of those rallying chanted “Blood for blood! We will not accept compensation!,” demanding punishment for officials responsible for killings during Bashir’s iron-fisted, three-decade rule.
“All those responsible for the conflicts in Sudan should be tried and brought to justice,” said protester Ismail Jadallah.
Also at the protest were dozens of judges, dressed in their robes, who had marched from the constitutional court, an AFP photographer said.
“We are here to give a message that the judiciary should be independent without any political intervention,” a judge told journalists.
But protesters expressed anger at the judges when they arrived at the demonstration, an AFP photographer said.
“Leave, Leave!” protesters shouted, blaming the judges for pro-regime verdicts during Bashir’s rule.
An AFP photographer in downtown Khartoum said crowds of protesters had gathered earlier outside Egypt’s embassy and consulate, which were surrounded by riot police.
Several people held banners calling on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi not to “interfere in our affairs,” after Cairo hosted a summit of African leaders who said more time was needed for a transition to civilian rule in Sudan.
Across the city, demonstrators arrived at the army headquarters from the states of Jazeera, White Nile and also from Bashir’s hometown Shendi, boosting the ranks of those already camped at the site, many of them for the past several weeks.
The giant rally followed a late-night meeting between the military council and leaders of the protest movement’s umbrella group.
“We have an agreement on most demands presented in the document of the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” Lt. Gen. Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman of the military council, told reporters afterwards.
He did not elaborate on the key demand of handing power to a civilian government, but said there “were no big disputes.”
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which initially spearheaded months of protests against Bashir, described the meeting as a step toward “confidence-building.”
“Both sides agreed on the importance of joint cooperation to steer the country toward peace and stability,” the SPA said Thursday.
Writing on Twitter, the association said a “joint committee” was being set up to “discuss outstanding disputes” as part of efforts to reach a “comprehensive agreement.”
On Thursday, activist Ahmed Najdi said he was expecting “a joint military-civilian sovereign council, which I think is the middle path and most protesters would agree to that.”
He said he would participate in the demonstration throughout the night.
“More crowds are expected in the evening. We will continue our sit-in through the night, tomorrow and up until we achieve our demands,” Najdi told AFP.
Wednesday’s meeting was followed by the military council announcing three members of the ruling body had stepped down after demands from protesters.
The United States has backed protesters’ demands.
State Department official Makila James said Tuesday that Washington supports “the legitimate demand of the people of Sudan for a civilian-led government” and urged all parties to work together to that end.
Siddiq Farouk, a protest leader, said demonstrators were preparing for a general strike if the military council continues to refuse to hand over power.
The council, led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan since his predecessor quit after barely 24 hours in the post, says it has assumed power for a two-year transitional period.
Protesters have flocked to Khartoum from across the country, including on a packed train Tuesday which rolled in from Atbara, where protests began on December 19 against a decision by Bashir’s government to triple bread prices.
They swiftly turned into nationwide rallies against his rule and that of the military council that took his place.
Protester Hayam Kamal said she had returned from the Gulf to take part in the protest.
“I have been living in Saudi Arabia all my life,” she told AFP. “I returned to call for our freedom and better living conditions so that I can come back and live here.”


Bombings kill 6 civilians in main Kurdish city in Syria

Updated 31 min 37 sec ago

Bombings kill 6 civilians in main Kurdish city in Syria

  • More than 20 people were wounded in the simultaneous attacks
  • The blasts come after Daesh claimed to have killed an Armenian Catholic priest from Qamishli

QAMISHLI, Syria: Three simultaneous bombings killed at least six civilians in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria on Monday, a Kurdish security source and a Britain-based monitor said.
There was no immediate claim for the bombings, but they occurred shortly after the Daesh group said it was responsible for the killing the same day of a priest from the same city.
In Qamishli, an AFP correspondent saw charred cars and smoke rise from the site of the blasts.
Firefighters tried to put out the flames caused by the explosions, as rescue workers carried away the victims.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria, said two car bombs and an explosives-rigged motorcycle blew up in a market and near a school in the city.
More than 20 people were wounded in the simultaneous attacks, said the Britain-based monitor said.
The blasts come after Daesh claimed to have killed an Armenian Catholic priest from Qamishli.
The Observatory said the priest and his father were killed by gunfire as they made their way to the eastern province of Deir Ezzor to inspect the restoration of a church there.
Kurdish fighters have led the US-backed battle against Daesh in Syria, expelling the extremists from the last scrap of their proto-state in March.
But the jihadists have continued to claim deadly attacks in northeastern and eastern Syria ever since.
In July, IS said it was responsible for a massive truck bomb that killed at least 44 people in Qamishli.
A Turkish cross-border attack against Kurdish fighters on Oct. 9 heightened fears that Daesh fighters could break out in mass from Kurdish jails.
But a fragile Turkish-Russian cease-fire deal has more or less halted that offensive, and seen Kurdish forces withdraw from areas along the Turkish border, except Qamishli.