KHARTOUM: The head of a Sudanese investigation into the violent break up of a protest by security forces said on Saturday that 87 people were killed and 168 wounded in the June 3 incident in Khartoum, citing a higher death toll than previous official estimates.
Fath Al-Rahman Saeed, the head of the investigative committee appointed by the public prosecutor, said some members of the security forces fired live ammunition at protesters who were holding a sit-in to demand the military cede power.
He told a news conference that three officers had violated orders by moving forces into the sit-in area outside the Defense Ministry, a focal point for protests that had led to the ouster of long-time President Omar Al-Bashir on April 11.
Saeed said 17 of those killed were in the square occupied by protesters in the worst bout of violence since Bashir was toppled, adding that 48 of the wounded were hit by bullets.
An order was also issued to whip protesters, he added.
The Health Ministry had previously put the death toll at 61, while opposition medics have said 127 people were killed and 400 wounded in the dispersal.
“Some outlaws exploited this gathering and formed another gathering in what is known as the Columbia area, where negative and illegal practices took place,” Saeed said.
“It became a security threat, forcing the authorities to make necessary arrangements to clear the area,” he said.
There was no immediate reaction to his comments from the opposition coalition Forces of Freedom and Change, which is negotiating with the ruling military council to finalize an agreement for a three-year transition to elections.
The committee found that some members of the joint force tasked with clearing the Columbia area “exceeded their duties and entered the sit-in square ... and fired heavily and randomly,” leading to the killing and wounding of some protesters.
Saeed gave the ranks and initials of eight officers he said had been charged with crimes against humanity, which is punishable by death or life imprisonment under military law. He did not give their full names.
A brigadier general, referred to only as A. A. M., mobilized a riot force of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, on the orders of two senior officers but not members of Sudan’s top leadership, and told them to whip protesters, Saeed said.
Saeed said the committee had not uncovered any incidents of rape, although the US-based Physicians for Human Rights cited local medics as saying women had their clothes torn off and were raped.
It was not possible for Reuters to independently verify the reports of rape. Activists say Sudanese women are reluctant to publicly say they were raped to avoid any social sigma.
Sudan’s military council, which took power after former military officer Bashir was deposed, has previously denied any rape took place.