Sudanese security forces shot dead two protesters on Monday in a crackdown on rallies against last year’s military coup and arrested dozens of pro-democracy activists, medics said.
Regular mass protests have rocked the restive Northeast African country since the October 25 military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the death toll on Monday raised the death toll in the unrest to at least 81.
The power grab brought out a shaky power-sharing agreement between the military and civilians negotiated after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
AFP correspondents said that thousands gathered, on Monday, in the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city, Omdurman, while protests also erupted in the city of Port Sudan, in the eastern Darfur region of West Darfur, according to eyewitnesses.
In Khartoum, protests began with crowds waving national flags and carrying red balloons, as the rallies coincided with Valentine’s Day.
“Today is the day of the nation’s love,” read one of the banners.
Some chanted slogans calling for the authorities to release the activists who had been arrested, while others carried pictures of dead protesters.
“We demand the release of members of the resistance committee and politicians who have been unjustly arrested, some of whom are facing trumped-up charges,” protester Khaled Mohamed told AFP.
But when the crowds tried to approach the presidential palace, security forces fired a barrage of tear gas canisters.
The Independent Central Committee of Doctors of Sudan said that one of the demonstrators was killed after being shot “in the neck and chest by the coup forces” in Khartoum.
The committee said that another protester was killed later in Omdurman after he was hit “with a live bullet in the left shoulder that penetrated the chest.”
The Sudanese police said in a statement that at least 102 policemen were “seriously injured” and one of them was “shot to the foot”.
She also noted that the protesters “smashed the facade” of the parliament building, set a fire near a nearby gas station, and damaged several cars and a mosque in Omdurman.
She added that damage was also reported to several parts of the city’s Ministry of Youth and Sports, and elements owned by security guards were looted, adding that the police “used only reasonable lawful force” in response.
While Sudanese forces have repeatedly denied opening fire on protesters, Human Rights Watch cited witnesses detailing how security forces used “live ammunition” and tear gas canisters “directly” on crowds, a tactic that can be deadly in close quarters.
The authorities also arrested dozens of activists accused of belonging to the “resistance committees” that had an active role in organizing the protests.
The Sudanese Professionals Association announced Monday that “the number of detainees arbitrarily and without criminal charges has exceeded 100.”
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said that detainees in Soba prison in Khartoum started a hunger strike in protest against prison conditions.
“Some of them were arrested without charges and others are still awaiting investigations,” medics said in a statement.
Authorities on Sunday arrested Mohamed El-Feki, a former civilian member of the ruling Sovereign Council, who led the country under the now-defunct 2019 power-sharing agreement.
Last week, authorities arrested former minister Khaled Omar Youssef and Wagdy Saleh, spokesman for Sudan’s main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC).
These arrests came just a day after they joined a delegation from the Forces for Freedom and Change to hold talks with UN Special Representative Volker Perthes, as part of efforts to resolve Sudan’s worsening crisis.
The seizure of military power in October, the latest coup in Sudan since its independence, drew widespread international condemnation and punitive measures – but the authorities have shown little inclination to compromise.
Al-Burhan met, on Monday, with the Emirati ambassador to Sudan, who handed him an official invitation from the President of the State, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to visit the United Arab Emirates, according to an official statement issued by the Sudanese Sovereignty Council.
The UAE, along with the US and Britain, have called for the restoration of the civilian-led transition in Sudan.