At least 30 protesters were killed and hundreds injured Monday in Khartoum when the Sudanese military opened fire to break up a sit-in, according to a local doctors’ union.
The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) said critically injured patients are still in operating rooms and intensive care. The Sudanese military has denied any involvement.
Mobile internet was also shut down in Sudan, several sources on the ground told CNN. Services then partially resumed on MTN — one of Sudan’s three mobile networks — with intermittent and slow connectivity.
Opposition groups have relied heavily on social media to mobilize protesters, helping to unseat longtime President Omar al-Bashir in April, then opposing the interim military council that has ruled the country since the coup.
In response, Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the group which has spearheaded the protests, called on people to press on with demonstrations and for telecommunications workers not to “succumb to pressure” by the ruling military council.
Protesters congregated outside the Defense Ministry in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and other main streets.
Multiple eyewitnesses told CNN that security forces — the police and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces — shot at protesters with live fire. Several videos also showed security forces beating people with sticks. The Sudanese military has moved to forcibly disperse protesters since April 11.
The CCSD said earlier on its Facebook account that casualties were hit by “live bullets” Monday. The group said security forces surrounded hospitals where wounded and bodies were taken.
Those killed include an 8-year-old, the CCSD said. It said that more than 116 injured people were in several Khartoum hospitals.
A spokesman for the Sudanese Transitional Council said that the military “didn’t disperse the sit-in by force” but that the security crackdown was instead on a gathering in a nearby “dangerous” area.
Burning tires, black smoke and gun shots
Small fires and billowing clouds of black smoke could be seen in video taken in the capital on Monday. Other video showed people fleeing as guns went off. Protesters were also seen burning tires after security forces attempted to break up a sit-in.
Deema Alasad, a 25-year-old dentist from Khartoum, who took part in a sit-in outside the military headquarters, said the government’s paramilitary force, as well as members of the intelligence and security services, arrived in the area early in the morning.
“They hit us and then they started shooting live ammunition, after putting the entire sit-in under siege,” she said, describing the gunmen as “snipers.”
One woman, who asked not to be named, filmed video of a man lying on the ground, his arms trying to shield him from the blows of security forces who were beating him with sticks.
“I saw security forces chasing a car and stop it by force at gunpoint and hit the driver and his companion with sticks. And one of them yelled at me to stop recording. I filmed it from my window at 7:23 am,” she told CNN.
Alasad said the protesters were “unarmed civilians.”
“It is our right to protest and our right to express that we don’t accept what is going on,” she said.
Activist Fathi Abdo told CNN he witnessed around 20 people getting shot on Khartoum’s main streets and near army headquarters, where protesters have staged a mass sit-in for months.
Opposition suspends talks
The Sudanese opposition suspended talks with the ruling body after Monday’s crackdown. “We have halted all political communication and negotiations with the putschist council,” said the Declaration of Freedom and Change Alliance — an umbrella group for opposition groups and protest leaders.
“The leaders of this council are criminally responsible for all the bloodshed that took place since April 11th,” the statement added. The opposition leaders vowed to take the generals to court.
The Declaration of Freedom and Change announced a general strike and civil disobedience starting Monday.
It called on “honorable” members of various security forces to protect the people from the “militias of the putschist council” and to support a civilian transitional authority. They also called on the international community “not to recognize the military coup and to side with the Sudanese revolution.”
Continued protests since Bashir forced out of power
In April, Sudan’s former leader Bashir was arrested and forced out of power in a military coup after the country became engulfed in protests opposing his three-decade rule.
Irfan Siddiq, the British ambassador in Khartoum, called for an end to the violence.
“Extremely concerned by the heavy gunfire I’ve been hearing over the last hour from my residence and reports that Sudanese security forces are attacking the protest sit-in site resulting in casualties,” he said on Twitter. “No excuse for any such attack.”
An interim military council said it would lead the country through a transition period of up to two years, but protesters vowed to remain in the streets until a return to civilian government was guaranteed.