JEDDAH: At least five people were killed and dozens injured on Saturday when army chiefs in Sudan cracked down on mass rallies protesting against last month’s military coup.
Security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse tens of thousands of people who took to the streets in the capital, Khartoum, and other cities.
The demonstrations come two days after military leader Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan formed a new ruling council that excluded the civilian coalition the military had been sharing power with since 2019.
Sudanese pro-democracy groups condemned the move and vowed to continue their campaign of civil disobedience and protests against the Oct. 25 coup.
Security forces closed bridges on Saturday between central Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Khartoum North, laying barbed wire to block access. Roads to strategic sites were also shut.
As protesters began to gather around the capital, security forces moved quickly to try to disperse them, firing tear gas and chasing demonstrators down side streets to prevent them reaching central meeting points.
“People were surprised that they fired the tear gas so early,” said one protester in Omdurman. Protesters “retreated into the neighborhood and barricaded the streets and now they’re coming back to the main road.”
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is aligned with the protest movement, said protesters were “facing excessive repression using all forms of force including live bullets in several areas of Khartoum.”
In Wad Madani, southeast of Khartoum, large crowds gathered, chanting slogans including “Down, down with military rule.” There were also protests in Kassala in eastern Sudan and Atbara to the north.
The military takeover halted a transition toward democracy that began after the uprising that toppled dictator Omar Bashir in April 2019. Security forces detained senior officials appointed under a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilian groups, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was placed under house arrest.
Protesters on Saturday carried pictures of Hamdok, now a symbol of resistance to military rule, while chanting against Gen. Al-Burhan and his deputy Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
Mobile internet services have been cut off since the coup, despite a court order to restore them, and phone coverage has been disrupted, complicating efforts by the protest movement.
However, local resistance committees energized by the nomination of the new ruling council used flyers and organised smaller neighborhood protests in recent days.
“We reject any mediation or settlement with the coup leaders and will continue our struggle until we bring down the coup and bring the criminals to trial,” they said.
Despite pressure from Western powers that backed the transition, Burhan has pushed to consolidate the military’s position. Western states and the World Bank have suspended economic assistance designed to help pull Sudan out of decades of isolation and a deep economic crisis.