Security forces stormed a protest camp in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Monday and opposition-linked medics said more than 35 people were killed in the worst violence since the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April.
Footage shared on social media and verified by Reuters showed chaotic scenes of people fleeing through streets as sustained bursts of gunfire crackled in the air during violence that drew rapid Western and African censure.
Witnesses said a sit-in next to the Defense Ministry, the focal point of anti-government protests that started in December, had been cleared. Protesters poured onto streets elsewhere in Khartoum and beyond in response, setting up barricades and roadblocks with rocks and burning tires.
A group of doctors linked to the opposition said 30 people had been “martyred” in Monday’s violence, with the toll expected to rise because not all casualties had been accounted for. The group had earlier said at least 116 people were wounded.
The main protest group accused the ruling military council of perpetrating “a massacre” as it broke up the camp.
The Transitional Military Council (TMC) denied that, with a spokesman, Lieutenant General Shams El Din Kabbashi, telling Reuter's security forces were pursuing “unruly elements” who had fled to the protest site and caused chaos.
“The Transitional Military Council regrets the way the situation unfolded, reaffirming its full commitment to the ... safety of the citizens and renews its call for negotiations as soon as possible,” the council later said in a statement.
Monday’s violence is likely to deal a blow to hopes for a restart to stalled talks and a negotiated settlement over who should govern in a transitional period after Bashir’s overthrow.
Sudan’s public prosecutor on Monday ordered an investigation into the violence, state news agency SUNA said.
Smoke and stones
Television footage showed black smoke rising from tents, apparently torched by the raiding force. Internet users reported connection problems.
As protests unfurled, demonstrators in Khartoum hurled stones at security forces, who charged amid sounds of intense gunfire. One video posted on social media showed a protester collapse to the ground, crying in pain after being hit by what appeared to be live fire.
A Reuters witness saw troops wielding batons, including riot police and members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), deploy in central Khartoum and close roads, apparently to try to block people from reaching the protest site.
The RSF is commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the military council’s deputy head.