At least 13 people have been killed and dozens hurt after security forces in Sudan attacked a protest camp in the country’s capital, Khartoum, on Monday morning.
The attack on the pro-democracy protest at the camp has been described as the worst violence since the overthrow of the president, Omar al-Bashir in April and been condemned by many, including the European Union and the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a group which is close to the protesters.
Footage of the crackdown showed people fleeing through the streets amidst gunfire and ammunition while medics say that scores of people have been injured.
Witnesses reported that the security personnel involved in the attack belonged to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force that was heavily armed by the former president, al-Bashir.
Sudan has been governed by a Transitional Military Council (TMC) since President al-Bashir was overthrown in April. The main protest group has accused the ruling military council of trying to break up the camp, which has been the main protest site, but the council said the security forces had only targeted unruly groups in an adjacent area, reports Reuters.
“Sudanese forces did not disperse the sit-in outside the army headquarters by force, but rather targeted a nearby area which has become a threat to the safety of citizens,” TMC spokesman, Lt Gen Shams al-Din Kabbashi told UAE-based Sky News Arabia TV channel.
“The tents are still there and the youth are moving there freely,” he added, saying that many protesters had “preferred to leave the sit-in”.
The leaders of the protest movement, who want a civilian government to take over the running of the country, said they were stopping all contact with the military and called a general strike. Negotiations have been held for weeks over who should govern a transitional period after Bashir’s overthrow, but the talks have not yielded positive results.
The latest crackdown has since sparked unrest around Khartoum as hundreds of protesters have blocked roads with stones and burning tyres in Omdurman, the twin city neighbouring the Sudanese capital, according to a report by The Guardian. Smoke was also seen rising from several locations in Khartoum, the report added.
In response, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the group that launched nationwide protests in December, has asked Sudanese people to take part in “total civil disobedience” to topple the military council and to protest on the streets.
Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Sudan has asked Sudanese security forces to stop the attacks on protesters while the African Union has also condemned the violence, calling for investigations.
Years of economic struggle, dictatorship, police and military brutality and the stifling of dissent in Sudan by the Omar al-Bashir government were cut short in April after four months of protest yielded results.
Bashir, who is being sought by international prosecutors for alleged war crimes in the country’s western Darfur region, had earlier refused to step down and said his opponents should seek power through the ballot box.
After his removal, the military indicated that it would prosecute Bashir, but would not extradite him.
The military dissolved the government and said it will oversee a two-year transitional period followed by elections, but this was met with protests on the streets. The African Union subsequently gave Sudan’s military three months to transfer power to civilian rule.
Demonstrators have since been occupying the square in front of the military headquarters. In May, organisers and the ruling generals said they had agreed on the structure of a new administration and a three-year transition period to civilian rule.
But, according to the BBC, they still need to decide on the make-up of what has been called the sovereign council, which will be the highest decision-making body in the transition period. They are yet to agree on whether civilians or the military should have the majority of positions.