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.


US to pull last troops from north Syria

Updated 14 October 2019

US to pull last troops from north Syria

  • The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria
  • Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of US’s Kurdish-led ally the Syrian Democratic Forces

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States said on Sunday it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria and the failure of the US policy of keeping Assad from reasserting state authority over areas lost during the more than eight-year conflict with rebels trying to end his rule.
The developments also represent wins for Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad since 2011 when his violent effort to crush what began as peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule of Syria exploded into a full-blown civil war.
While the US withdrawal moves American troops out of the line of fire, the return of Syrian soldiers to the Turkish border opens up the possibility of a wider conflagration should the Syrian army come in direct conflict with Turkish forces.
The Turkish onslaught in northern Syria has also raised the prospect that Daesh militants and their families held by the Kurdish forces targeted by Turkey may escape — scores were said to have done so already — and permit the group’s revival.
The remarkable turn of events was set in motion a week ago when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw about 50 special operations forces from two outposts in northern Syria, a step widely seen as paving the way for Turkey to launch its week-long incursion against Kurdish militia in the region.
Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been a key US ally in dismantling the “caliphate” set up by Daesh militants in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said the offensive would extend from Kobani in the west to Hasaka in the east and extend some 30 kilometers into Syrian territory, with the town of Ras al Ain now in Turkish control.
US Defense Secretary Mike Esper said the United States decided to withdraw its roughly 1,000 troops in northern Syria — two US officials told Reuters it could pull the bulk out in days — after learning of the deepening Turkish offensive.
It was unclear what would happen to the several hundred US troops at the American military outpost of Tanf, near Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan.
Another factor behind the decision, Esper indicated in an interview with the CBS program “Face the Nation,” was that the SDF aimed to make a deal with Russia and Syria to counter the Turkish onslaught. Several hours later, the Kurdish-led administration said it had struck just such an agreement for the Syrian army to deploy along the length of the border with Turkey to help repel Ankara’s offensive.
The deployment would help the SDF in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it added, referring to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, and would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin.
The fighting has sparked Western concerns that the SDF, holding large swathes of northern Syria once controlled by Daesh, would be unable to keep thousands of militants in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.