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Clashes rock Sudan's capital after deadliest day since military coup

Sudan government dissolved in military coup
Sudan coup: Military arrests prime minister, dissolves government hoping to transition to democracy 02:05

Khartoum — Street clashes again shook Sudan's capital Thursday a day after security forces shot dead 15 protesters in the bloodiest day since the military's October 25 takeover. Police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of anti-coup protesters who had stayed on the streets of north Khartoum overnight, braving an intensifying crackdown that has drawn international condemnation, witnesses said.

Police tore down makeshift barricades the protesters had erected the previous day.

Later in the day, dozens of protesters returned to rebuild them and police again fired tear gas in a bid to clear the streets, witnesses said.

"Protesters responded by hurling stones at the police," one witness said.

On October 25, top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan — Sudan's de facto leader since the April 2019 ouster of longtime president Omar al-Bashir — detained the civilian leadership and declared a state of emergency.

The move upended Sudan's fragile transition to full civilian rule, drawing international condemnation and a flurry of punitive measures and aid cuts.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a civil society roundtable at the Sankara Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya November 17, 2021. ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP/Getty

"We condemn violence towards peaceful protesters and call for the respect and protection of human rights in Sudan," the U.S. State Department's Bureau of African Affairs said on Twitter.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on a three-nation tour in Africa this week, during which he is expected to push for peaceful resolutions to the crisis in Sudan, and the war in Ethiopia. Speaking on Thursday, Blinken condemned the violence against the protesters in Sudan and reiterated the Biden administration's call for ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to be reinstated at once.

Conflict over Ethiopia's Tigray region worsens while diplomats scramble to find a resolution 05:49

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association Clement Voule, meanwhile, said he had "received alarming reports of increased use of lethal force by the military against peaceful protesters," and he called on the international community to "put pressure on Sudan to immediately stop the repression against civilians and respect their rights."

Burhan insists the military's move "was not a coup" but a step to "rectify the course of the transition" to civilian rule.

Thousands took to the streets on Wednesday in Khartoum and other cities but were met by the deadliest crackdown since the coup. At least 15 people were killed, most of them in north Khartoum, medics said, raising the toll since the coup to 39.

Police said they had recorded only one death among protesters in north Khartoum, with another 30 suffering breathing difficulties from tear gas inhalation. They said they had fired no live rounds and used only "minimum force," even as 89 officers were wounded, some of them critically.

The latest demonstrations were organized despite a near-total shutdown of internet services and the disruption of telephone lines across Sudan.

By Thursday morning, phone lines had been restored but internet services remained largely cut.

Bridges connecting Khartoum with its neighboring cities reopened and traffic returned to many of the capital's streets.

AFP correspondents saw security forces removing barricades from some streets in north and east Khartoum.

Last week, Burhan formed a new Sovereign Council, the highest transitional authority, with himself as chief and military figures and ex-rebel leaders keeping their posts.

He replaced members from the Forces for Freedom and Change, Sudan's main civilian bloc, with little-known figures.

The FFC is an umbrella alliance that spearheaded the protests which led to the ouster of president Omar al-Bashir in 2019, and its mainstream faction has supported the anti-coup protests of recent weeks.

Sudan's largest political faction, the Umma Party, condemned the use of force by the security forces and called for peaceful protests to continue "until the coup is brought down" and those who have committed crimes against the people have been held accountable.

Since the coup, Burhan has removed clauses referring to the FFC from the 2019 power-sharing deal between the military and the civilians from the bloc.  

This week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee met with the generals and the ousted civilian government in a bid to broker a way out of the crisis. Phee has called for the reinstatement of ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is effectively under house arrest.

Burhan has vowed to hold the planned elections in 2023, reiterating to Phee on Tuesday that his actions aimed to "correct the trajectory of the revolution".

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