Sudanese forces storm protest camp, more than 30 people killed -medics

Sudanese protesters use burning tires to erect a barricade on a street, demanding that the country’s Transitional Military Council hand over power to civilians, in Khartoum, Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 03 June 2019

Sudanese forces storm protest camp, more than 30 people killed -medics

  • More than 30 people were reported killed in the worst violence since Bashir's overthrow
  • Protest leaders said the military is trying to break up the protest site

KHARTOUM: Security forces stormed a protest camp in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Monday and opposition-linked medics said more than 30 people were killed in the worst violence since the overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir in April.
Footage shared on social media and verified by Reuters showed chaotic scenes of people fleeing through streets as sustained bursts of gunfire crackled in the air during violence that drew rapid Western and African censure.
Witnesses said a sit-in next to the Defense Ministry, the focal point of anti-government protests that started in December, had been cleared. Protesters poured onto streets elsewhere in Khartoum and beyond in response, setting up barricades and roadblocks with rocks and burning tires.
A group of doctors linked to the opposition said 30 people had been “martyred” in Monday’s violence, with the toll expected to rise because not all casualties had been accounted for. The group had earlier said at least 116 people were wounded.
The main protest group accused the ruling military council of perpetrating “a massacre” as it broke up the camp.
The Transitional Military Council (TMC) denied that, with a spokesman, Lt. Gen. Shams El Din Kabbashi, telling Reuters security forces were pursuing “unruly elements” who had fled to the protest site and caused chaos.
“The Transitional Military Council regrets the way the situation unfolded, reaffirming its full commitment to the ... safety of the citizens and renews its call for negotiations as soon as possible,” the council later said in a statement.
Monday’s violence is likely to deal a blow to hopes for a restart to stalled talks and a negotiated settlement over who should govern in a transitional period after Bashir’s overthrow.
Sudan’s public prosecutor on Monday ordered an investigation into the violence, state news agency SUNA said.
TALKS HALTED
An alliance of protest and opposition groups that had been negotiating with the military for weeks said it was halting all contact with the council.
The TMC had offered to let protesters form a government but insisted on maintaining overall authority during an interim period. Demonstrators want civilians to run the transitional period and lead Sudan’s 40 million people to democracy.
The protest-linked doctors group said security forces had surrounded one Khartoum hospital and had opened fire at another where they were pursuing protesters.
“The protesters holding a sit-in in front of the army general command are facing a massacre in a treacherous attempt to disperse the protest,” said protests organizer the Sudanese Professionals Association.
The United Nations, African Union and European Union expressed deep concern, some explicitly blaming the military.
“What is clear to us is that there was use of excessive force by the security forces on civilians,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Britain’s ambassador Irfan Siddiq said he heard gunfire for more than an hour from his residence. “No excuse for any such attack. This. Must. Stop. Now,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Responsibility falls on the TMC. The TMC cannot responsibly lead the people of Sudan,” added the US Embassy.
The European Union urged a speedy transfer of power to civilians, while the African Union called for an immediate investigation, and Amnesty International urged sanctions on those officials responsible.
Neighbouring Egypt called for “calm and restraint,” while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it hoped that dialogue would prevail in Sudan.
“The regional experience has taught us that the orderly and conservative transition of the state and its institutions is the only way to avoid years of chaos and loss,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.
SMOKE AND STONES
Television footage showed black smoke rising from tents, apparently torched by the raiding force.
Internet users reported connection problems.
As protests unfurled, demonstrators in Khartoum hurled stones at security forces, who charged amid sounds of intense gunfire. One video posted on social media showed a protester collapse to the ground, crying in pain after being hit by what appeared to be live fire.
A Reuters witness saw troops wielding batons, including riot police and members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), deploy in central Khartoum and close roads, apparently to try to block people from reaching the protest site.
The military’s role in ousting Bashir has raised fears among many Sudanese that their country could follow a similar path to neighboring Egypt after its 2011 uprising.
There, a military council oversaw a turbulent and sometimes violent transition before army chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi led the overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi. El-Sisi was elected president in 2014 and again in 2018 with 97 percent of the vote.


Former Lebanese minister condemns Hezbollah ‘takeover’

Updated 9 min ago

Former Lebanese minister condemns Hezbollah ‘takeover’

  • Marwan Hamade: Now Hezbollah completes its takeover through the new government where we find the fingerprints of the Syrian regime
  • Hamade said that the new government will face the same factional tensions and rivalries as previous leaderships

PARIS: The formation of a Lebanese government headed by Hassan Diab showed that “Hezbollah has completed its takeover of the Lebanese state,” former minister Marwan Hamade told Arab News.

Hamade, a leading member of Lebanon’s Druze, led by Walid Jumblatt, said that Hezbollah regained a parliamentary majority in 2018 thanks to an electoral law designed to benefit the pro-Iranian party.

“Now Hezbollah completes its takeover through the new government where we find the fingerprints of the Syrian regime. The majority of the new ministers in key positions depend either on Hezbollah or on the former security chief, the pro-Syrian Jamil Sayyed, or on Gebran Bassil, their ally,” he said.

Hamade said that the new government will face the same factional tensions and rivalries as previous leaderships, with a pro-Iranian Syrian faction controlling the state along with factions allied to Hezbollah.

The focus will be on Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salame. “They hold him responsible for implementing US sanctions on Hezbollah, and there is a tendency to make him pay and to destroy the financial sector. Lebanon is turning into a battle front in the conflict between the US and Iran,” Hamade said.

Asked about the new foreign minister Nassif Hitti, a former Arab League envoy, Hamade said: “Hitti will be able to do minor things through his personality, but Lebanese policy and diplomacy will not be within his hands — regrettably it will be in Hezbollah’s.”