Sudanese soldier killed during raid on sit-in, say sources

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Sudanese security forces attempted to break up an anti-government sit-in outside the military headquarters in the country’s capital on Monday, setting off clashes in which a soldier was killed while trying to protect protesters, sources said.

Thousands also rallied in front of the compound in Khartoum over the weekend, in one of the biggest demonstrations since protests erupted in December calling for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.

The protesters set up tents on Saturday, in what appeared to be an effort to replicate the mass sit-ins of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

On Monday, security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire to try to disperse the protesters, according to the Sudanese Professionals Association, which is spearheading the demonstrations.

The Sudan Doctors Committee, an affiliate of the SPA, said a soldier was fatally wounded while trying to protect the protesters.

It said another man died elsewhere in Khartoum after being beaten and tortured by security forces.

Footage posted online showed soldiers moving peacefully among the protesters, raising the possibility that some troops were trying to halt the violence without force. Another clip showed a truck carrying a group of soldiers, including one who was wounded.

The union leading the protests called on the military to back the “people’s choice” to end al-Bashir’s rule and said they are seeking “direct communications” with its leadership to “facilitate a peaceful transfer of power to a transitional government.”

There was no immediate comment from the military, and a government spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Protesters said security forces in pickups, mostly from the feared National Intelligence and Security Service, attacked the sit-in early Monday, firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.

Amal el-Zein, a protester said soldiers guarding the compound stood by at first, but then moved in to chase the security forces away, firing into the air.

Another witness said security forces later repeated their attempt to break up the sit-in, forcing protesters to seek shelter in a nearby navy facility. He said the military has deployed troops around its headquarters and blocked several roads leading to the complex.

The protests were initially sparked by price hikes and shortages, but quickly escalated into calls for the resignation of al-Bashir, who seized power in 1989 in an Islamist-backed military coup.

Al-Bashir has refused to step down and has also declared a state of emergency. Dozens of people have been killed in the crackdown so far.

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