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Sudan anti-coup protests turn deadly ahead of UN-backed talks

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One Sudanese protester was killed Sunday as security forces fired tear gas at thousands who rallied to keep up pressure on the military, one day before the UN is to launch talks aiming to end weeks of crisis after a coup. 

The October 25 power grab, led by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, derailed a civilian-military power sharing transition established after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir. 

It also sparked regular protests — sometimes by tens of thousands — by Sudanese wanting a return to the democratic transition in a country with a long history of coups.

The latest fatality brings to 62 the death toll of protesters killed in a crackdown on anti-coup demonstrations, the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said in a statement. 

They said the 26-year-old protester killed was “hit by a canister of tear gas to the neck” fired by security forces. 

He died a day before the United Nations is to hold a press conference launching a dialogue among “all key civilian and military stakeholders” to find a path forward “towards democracy and peace,” UN special envoy Volker Perthes said.

Earlier on Sunday, a teenager died from “live bullet” wounds to the neck sustained during protests on Thursday, according to medics.

Pro-democracy demonstrators on Sunday had again marched towards the presidential palace in central Khartoum and also rallied in North Khartoum, witnesses said.

“No, no to military rule,” they chanted, waving the national flag. 

Main streets around the capital were sealed off in a bid to prevent people converging there and at army headquarters, which was the epicentre of the mass demonstrations that forced Bashir out.  

Protesters also rallied in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city across the Nile, and Wad Madani to the south, witnesses said.  

“We will not accept less than a full civilian government,” said 27-year-old protester Ammar Hamed in Khartoum.  

Authorities have repeatedly denied using live ammunition in confronting protesters and insist scores of security forces have been wounded during demonstrations that have often “deviated from peacefulness”.

Protests had calmed as night fell. 

Medics condemn hospital raids

Medics in white coats joined Sunday’s rallies to protest the security forces’ storming of hospitals and other medical facilities during previous demonstrations.

The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, affiliated with the protest movement, said on Saturday that medics would deliver a memorandum to UN officials listing “assaults” against such facilities.

Last week, Sudan’s civilian prime minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned saying the country was at a “dangerous crossroads threatening its very survival”. He had only resumed his position on November 21, after being ousted along with his government in the coup. 

Analysts said his departure left the military in full control and threatened a return to Bashir-era repression.

“It is time to end the violence and enter into a constructive process,” Perthes said on Saturday in announcing the talks.

Last week United States, Britain, Norway and the European Union had warned Sudan could plunge into conflict and called for “an immediate, Sudanese-led and internationally facilitated dialogue”.

But the Forces for Freedom and Change, the civilian alliance which spearheaded protests against Bashir and became integral to the transitional government, said it had not received “any details” about the UN initiative.

On Sunday, the Sudanese Professionals Association, also instrumental in the anti-Bashir protests, said it completely “rejected” the UN-facilitated talks. 

“The way to resolve the Sudanese crisis begins with the complete overthrow of the putschist military council and the handover of its members to face justice over the killings committed against the defenceless (and) peaceful Sudanese people,” the SPA said in a statement. 

Burhan has insisted that the military takeover “was not a coup” but only meant to “rectify the course of the Sudanese transition”.

The UN Security Council is to meet on Wednesday to discuss developments in Sudan.

(AFP)

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