Sudanese security forces killed at least five people on Saturday and injured dozens more when they used teargas and live bullets to break up a protest in Khartoum against a military takeover of the government.
Protesters defied a military shutdown of the city to call for a return to civilian rule, as plain-clothed snipers reappeared on the streets on Saturday. On Friday, coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan cemented his hold on power by swearing in a new ruling council that excluded the main civilian coalition.
Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of people turned out in most of Sudan’s important cities and towns, chanting in support of civilian rule, and denouncing Burhan. Slogans on banners included “stop the killing – enough is enough”.
“We reject the coup. We want the army to be held accountable for all the killing,” said protester Abdul-Rahman Sharaf-Eldeen, a 31-year-old agricultural engineer. “I believe that the army should not be part of any future government.”
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said five people were killed in Saturday’s protests, four by bullets and one as a result of teargas exposure. The toll is likely to rise, with many more in hospital from serious gunshot wounds, and at least one journalist among those injured.
At least 14 other people have been killed in previous protests against the military since it seized control late last month. Burhan imprisoned more than 100 key political leaders and activists, including most of the cabinet, and put prime minister Abdalla Hamdok under house arrest.
The coup provoked mass demonstrations inside Sudan, and criticism from the international community, but the military has ignored these as it consolidates its grip.
The country had been in a fragile transitional period after a 2019 pro-democracy uprising led to the removal from power of the autocrat Omar al-Bashir. The military then signed a power-sharing deal with the pro-democracy forces, setting up an 11-member sovereign council, but that was dissolved last month.
It has now been replaced by a new council dominated by military loyalists, sworn in on Friday morning. It included powerful paramilitary leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who was also made vice-president.
“I am here to reject the latest decisions of Burhan to form a sovereign council. We don’t him to be back. We want a civilian government,” said Asjad Ahmed, 20, a student at al-Zaim al-Azhari University, protesting near the military headquarters.
In a bid to stem the protests, the government closed down the bridges leading to Khartoum city, where the military HQ and the presidential palace are located, but protesters defied the threats of violence to turn out in large numbers.
“They are trying to terrorise us by sending all those soldiers, but we don’t care, we will march,” said Ashraf el-Haj, 43, a member of a Resistance Committee in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum. “We are fed up with the dictatorship and the silencing of our people.”
When the shooting began, security forces barred ambulances from collecting the injured, eyewitnesses said, forcing them to seek treatment in rickshaws. They also beat up doctors and arrested them at the Eastern Nile hospital in north Khartoum.
“Our colleagues have been beaten and one was arrested, so we are too busy at the moment, we have been overwhelmed with a lot of casualties,” said a doctor at another centre, who asked not to be named.
Information minister Hamza Baloul, who was among those detained at the time of the coup but has since been released, joined the protesters and urged them not to give up in a video posted online.
“The Sudanese people have decided to create a civilian nation and there is no will stronger than that of the Sudanese people’s,” he said. There are also demonstrations in solidarity around the world, with hundreds of people turning up outside Sudanese embassies, including Paris and Berlin.